Tonight our Orlando Magic are on the second night of a back-to-back in New York, taking on the Knicks in the Madison Square Garden. As with last night this one has a U.K. tip time of 12:30am & will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
This is the second time this season that we face the Knicks, playing them once more in April just before the regular season comes to a close. We need to beat the sub 500 teams as our record this season against those above that mark is dire. Wins are becoming of a premium as we chase qualification & seeding in the playoffs, which is far from guaranteed yet.
Our scrap with the Brooklyn Nets for the 7th seeding saw them move further ahead last night. As we lost in Boston they won at home against the Golden State Warriors. That put them clear above us but still having played a game less. At this time we hold the tiebreaker over them. We still have to face the Nets three times by the end of March.
The Magic now have a 22 & 29 losing record for the season, sitting 8th in the Eastern Conference. We took a frustrating but not unexpected loss last night in Boston, losing by 16 to the Celtics on the road by 100-116. Across our last 10 games we have a terrible 2 & 8 record. Our road form has been poor all season, sitting now at 9 & 17.
In the NBA offensive rankings we moved back to 26th with a rating of 105.8 but our average scoring is still only 103.3 points per game (which remains the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg). Our defensive ranking remains the 7th best at 107.4, whilst still allowing only 104.8 points per game (which is still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
Magic Injury & Starters
The injury report for the Magic has one change from last night as Khem Birch (4.1 ppg) back & available. The rest is as before: Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) out with a severe left knee strain & bone contusion which will not be re-evaluated until early-mid March. Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) is out indefinitely after surgery. DJ Augustin (10.7 ppg) is out with a knee injury which is being re-evaluated in mid February.
Therefore our starting lineup will likely be Evan Fournier (18.7 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (18.6 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.5 ppg) & Aaron Gordon (13.8 ppg) joined by hopefully Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg). From the bench we have Michael Carter-Williams (6.7 ppg), Terence Ross (13.3 ppg), Mo Bamba (5.5 ppg), BJ Johnson (1.9 ppg), Amile Jefferson (0.8 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.6 ppg).
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the white Association uniform tonight.
The Knicks are currently sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference, with a 15 & 36 record. They come into tonight having beaten the Cavs in Cleveland on Monday 139-134 in overtime. Across their last 10 games the NYK are 4 & 6, having won 2 games on the bounce. They have won 7 of 25 their home games.
Looking at the NBA offensive rankings the Knicks rank below us at 28th with a rating of 105.5 & scoring 104.5 points per game, which only slightly better than our own average. Defensively they are 24th at a rating of 112.7, whilst allowing 111.7 points per game.
They have 5 injury concerns listed: probable are Reggie Bullock (9.4 ppg) (illness) & Mitchell Robinson (9.1 ppg) (illness). Questionable are rookie RJ Barrett (14.1 ppg) (ankle), Damyean Dotson (6.9 ppg) (illness) & Allonzo Trier (6 ppg) (illness).
The Knicks have former Magic point guard Elfrid Payton (9.2 ppg) in their starting lineup, along with Marcus Morris (19.6 ppg), Julius Randle (18.9 ppg), Taj Gibson (5.5 ppg) & normally Reggie Bullock (9.4 ppg). They can also draw on Dennis Smith Jr (5.6 ppg), Bobby Portis (9.5 ppg), Kevin Knox (7.1 ppg) & Frank Ntilikina (6 ppg).
When we met in the Amway on game day 4 in October we won 83-95 at a time when both teams were searching for a settled rotation. For the past two seasons we have won a 4 game series 3-1. The all time head-to-head record in the 115 regular season games played sees the Magic leading 60-55.
Keys To The Game
As I wrote last night we come into the fixture undermanned, with our road form not good & our offence still being dysfunctional. If you are in any doubt of our issue just look at the final 5 minutes of the Celtics game where we scored just 4 points in the final 5 minutes.
Our defence can build us a platform to win the game tonight, which is for me a should win & a must win game.
If we can go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead we should feel encouraged as we are 19 & 1 from that position this season.
Along with not hitting a scoring drought we must cut out the mistakes that led to 17 turnovers & 17 points being scored against us last night.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC