By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Magic | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: Coming off a big win over the Hawks, the Knicks have won four of six and are ready to go on a run now that they are (mostly) healthy. Point guard Raymond Felton struggled in his return to the lineup this past Saturday, but against Atlanta, he started out hot and finished with 12 points and 10 assists. Iman Shumpert rebounded from a poor shooting night, as well, and both he and Amar'e Stoudemire -- who looks like he's rounding into form after another strong outing of 18 points -- are nearing the point where minute restrictions are a thing of the past. Wednesday marks the first of six straight games in which the Knicks will be heavy favorites.
Orlando: After trading superstar Dwight Howard, the Magic committed to a long-term rebuilding project -- and they are, no doubt, succeeding in that effort. They are 14-30, riding a six-game losing streak as they come to the Garden. A team in their position generally cares less about winning games than player development, though, and to that end they are also making strides this season. Second-year center Nikola Vucevic has shown signs of developing into a credible threat in the post and leads the team in Player Efficiency Rating. Rookie forwards Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless have also been positive stories for them.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks squeaked out a two-point win over the Hawks, 106-104, when Josh Smith's 3 at the buzzer bounced out.
Orlando: The Magic took a 20-point drubbing from the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday, 97-77.
The Numbers Game
Carmelo Anthony tied a franchise record with nine 3-pointers on his way to 42 points in Sunday's game against the Hawks.
Match-up to Watch
Nikola Vucevic vs. Tyson Chandler
Vucevic, as we noted, has been one of the few bright spots in this (first of likely many) rebuilding season for the Magic. Averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, his profile looks similar to Chandler's, albeit without the dominant defense for with the Knicks' other All-Star has become famous. He can shoot it out to 15 feet and finishes well around the rim. With Chandler battling a nagging neck injury that he re-aggravated during the Atlanta win, Vucevic could cause trouble for the Knicks on the glass if they don't make an effort to box out and rebound as a team.
What to Look For
While they are clearly thinking towards the future, the Magic do feature a few players who are capable of doing some damage. J.J. Redick shoots over 40 percent from 3, and Arron Afflalo, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Jameer Nelson are veterans who can score the ball. The Knicks have played a zone defense at times, so it will be interesting to see if they continue with that when matchups call for it. They struggled to contain the last two point guards they faced (Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague), but Nelson is not the type of athlete nor finisher that those two are. Anthony, as usual, will be the focal point of the offense, although we could see the Felton-Chandler pick-and-roll develop more if Chandler's neck cooperates.