NEW YORK — Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel wondered why Jamel Artis went undrafted last summer.
He was even more surprised Artis was there for the taking after the New York Knicks decided to let him go after seeing him play in just one preseason game last October.
Mario Hezonja scored 19 points, Artis added a career-high 16 off the bench, and the Magic beat the Knicks 97-73 in a matchup between two lottery-bound teams on Tuesday night.
Vogel raved about the 25-year-old Artis, who was skipped over by all 30 teams on draft night. Once the Knicks let him go, Artis was signed to a two-way contract, splitting time with the Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s G League affiliate.
“What intrigues me about him is his playmaking ability,” Vogel said. “He handles it like a point guard. Can really make plays with the passes. And then he can knock down the open shot like he did tonight. He got hot out there, but his floor game was what was most impressive.”
Reserve Shelvin Mack had 12 points and Nikola Vucevic had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and Kyle O’Quinn had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who lost their fourth straight.
New York’s 73 points matched a season-low set in a 30-point blowout loss at Boston on Jan. 31.
Hardaway said he would like to his team show more courage in the last four games of the season — all coming against playoff-bound teams.
“I want to see pride. Everybody having an urgency and that fight to go out there to compete on every given night,” Hardaway said. “What do we have to lose? Other teams destroyed our season, so let’s do a good job of making these guys that are going to the playoffs next couple of games to make it difficult for them.”
The Magic limited the Knicks to 28 points in the second half and held them to just 3-for-17 shooting in the last eight minutes.
Orlando won the season series 3-1.
The Magic led by only five with about 10 minutes remaining before blowing open the game aided by an alert play by Artis, who last June agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with New York before he was cut Oct. 4, three weeks before his former team’s season-opener.
The Knicks, who’ve been looking for assets as they continue to rebuild their team around injured star forward Kristaps Porzingis, certainly surprised Artis with their decision to part ways.
“Yeah, I was a little caught off-guard,” said Artis, who also notched a career-high six rebounds. “I would say because I think I belong here. It’s nothing personal. It’s (part) of the sport. You got to be great, continue to work hard like I did. I am here now and I love it.”
His steal led to a layup and a pair of free throws made by Rodney Purvis to put the Magic up 74-65 with 8:07 left in the final period. A basket by New York’s Luke Kornet made it 74-67 but it was as close as it would get, as Orlando used an 18-6 run capped by a layup from Mack that put them ahead 92-73 with 2:58 left.
Magic: Had 28 assists on 37 of their baskets. … Khem Birch had 11 points and 10 rebounds. . Mack also added eight assists and eight rebounds.
Knicks: Enes Kanter missed his second straight game due to a bruised tailbone. Hornacek mentioned before his team took the court that the 25-year-old center might not play again this season. The Knicks have five games left in their schedule. “I don’t know if he’ll be back by the end or not,” Hornacek said. Kanter, who has a player option for next year, has averaged 14.1 points and 11 rebounds in 71 games this season, his first with New York.
Vogel met with former Knicks president Phil Jackson after leading Indiana to the playoffs in five of his six seasons, and thought he would get the job that eventually went to Jeff Hornacek.
“I was surprised that I wasn’t,” Vogel said before the game. “I interviewed with Phil and Steve Mills and we had a good couple of days together and they said they had one more person they wanted to talk to before they wrapped up the process. But they felt good about it.”
Under Vogel, the Magic have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. He praised the job Hornaceck has done despite the team’s on-court results.
“Then they met with Jeff and Jeff must have blown them away because they ended up going with Jeff,” Vogel added. “And I think that was a good choice because Jeff’s a hell of a coach and he’s done a hell of a job under a difficult circumstance here.”
Magic: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Knicks: Continue their final homestand of the season Friday against the Miami Heat.