Knicks @ Magic – Amway Center
When: Saturday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: On Thursday night, the Knicks jumped back into the win column and avoided a three-game slide, which has never occurred under the direction of head coach Mike Woodson. New York pounded an elite Western Conference team and will now face a string of Eastern Conference opponents, four straight to be exact. Rasheed Wallace is still day-to-day with a foot injury but Amar’e Stoudmire continues to add minutes and games to his comeback in the New Year. Raymond Felton is out with a fractured pinky finger and will most likely not return to the floor until next month. Iman Shumpert is progressing rapidly as he searches for clearance to begin contact drills in practice. At 22-10, the Knicks sit in second place in the latest Eastern Conference standings and they hold a five-game lead over the Nets in the Atlantic Division.
Orlando: The last time the Knicks and Magic met in Orlando, the Magic were in the midst of a four-game losing streak and it moved to five when they fell to New York on November 13. Orlando has lost seven straight games heading into the second meeting on Saturday night. The injury to Glen Davis has really hampered the Magic from an offensive standpoint as the big man continues to rehab after hurting his left shoulder on December 19. He is not expected to return until late January. Al Harrington is out of the lineup as well and E’Twaun Moore is listed as questionable for the game against the Knicks. Orlando is 12-20 and will complete a four-game homestand on Saturday before jumping on the road for a seven-day, four-game road trip that ends in Washington.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks used a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter to blow past the Spurs 100-83 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
Orlando: The Magic fell in a close 96-94 game to the Bulls on Wednesday night despite 32 points from Jameer Nelson.
The Numbers Game
New York is 13-3 against Eastern Conference opponents and 12-3 against teams with a sub .500 records.
Match-up to Watch
Knicks Backcourt vs. Magic Backcourt
Orlando was forced to look for other scoring options when Davis was sidelined with the shoulder injury. The combination of Nelson, Arron Afflalo, and J.J. Redick off the bench can produce points for the Magic. Nelson dropped 32 on a strong defensive Bulls team on Wednesday, Redick averages 15.1 points per game, and Afflalo is Orlando’s leading scorer at 17.1. On the other side, the Knicks match up perfectly against this Magic backcourt even with Felton out of the lineup. Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni elevated their games in the win over San Antonio, holding Tony Parker to just 11 points. Prigioni enjoyed a solid outing on Thursday with nine dimes and relentless defensive pressure. Not to mention, J.R. Smith is riding a 10-game streak of scoring 20-plus points, which adds another significant playmaker to the Knicks offensive arsenal.
What to Look For
Regardless of the long losing streak and a 12-20 overall record, this Magic team should not be overlooked. In its two previous games, Orlando fought Miami in overtime and just missed an opportunity to beat the Bulls in a slight 96-94 loss. The key is the points in the paint after the Knicks remarkably held the Spurs to just 12 points in the box on Thursday. In the first matchup against the Magic in November, New York was outscored 46-40. The Knicks understand their defense fuels the offense and they need a focused approach to protecting the paint, closing on shooters, and limiting pick-and-roll opportunities.