The Knicks take on the Magic in hopes of securing another W.
UPDATE: Kristaps Porzingis will not be playing today. Frank Ntilkina will play.
Ah, a Sunday matinee at The Garden. The Knicks look to finish a clean sweep of the state of Florida. On Wednesday, they beat the brakes off of a Miami Heat team that was without Hassan Whiteside, but the Knicks were without Kristaps Porzingis. Our large adult son pulled a low stakes Willis Reed by scoring his first two shots of the game before exiting with a bad ankle roll. We all collectively had the anime sweat when KP had to be carried off the floor, but not only was he okay, the Knicks ended up destroying the Heat by a score of 115-86.
For the Sunday matinee, they welcome an Orlando Magic squad that are 1-9 in their last ten games. Despite the rough patch, this team should not be taken lightly. Elfrid Payton still holds the title for worst haircut in the league and is also starting to level up. The same goes for Aaron Gordon, who is finally in his rightful place at power forward and thriving. He comes into Sunday red hot as it looks like he is taking the mythical leap.
If Porzingis cannot go, stopping Gordon will become a taller task. Let’s breakdown what else the Knicks have to do in order to move to 12-10 and climb back into the top eight of the East.
Secure the Basketball
A major reason the Knicks left Orlando with a big fat L earlier this season was carelessness. They turned the ball over 23 times. That looks even worse when the Magic were able to limit their turnovers to just 12. In order to win today, New York will have to change that, which may be easier said than done. Heading into the game, the Knicks rank 24th in turnovers, averaging 16.2 per game. Conversely, the Magic rank more towards the middle with just 15.1 per game.
The guards will have to be conscious of the ball security. Elfrid Payton can be a nuisance on defense, so Jarrett Jack and Frank Ntilikina (should he suit up today) must be extra careful. Turnovers are inevitable in the high-tempo attack the Knicks like to run, but minimizing the throwaways with calculated risks could go a long way.
Stretch ‘Em Out
The starting five for the Magic has been great. They rank as the ninth-best lineup in the league, and combine to sho0t 50.8 percent from the field. Where you want to beat this team is with your depth. That means the bench will play an important role once again. Doug McDermott has been strong. Lance Thomas has been a grinder and Kyle O’Quinn has been tenacious down low. Frankie has proven to be capable and Michael Beasley is finally starting to see some action.
Those ten to 15 minutes where the starters get a rest could make all the difference. Beasley and McDermott’s potential to go on scoring runs should play a huge role in the bench battle, mainly because no Magic reserve possesses that potential.
Matchup of the Day: Aaron Gordon vs. Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis remains questionable with that ankle sprain. The team has been off since Wednesday, so the probability of him suiting up seems more likely than not. If that does happen, there is quite a matchup at the four. Aaron Gordon has been nice his last two games, scoring 69 points. He went off for 40 points in the Magic’s win against the Thunder earlier in the week. Gordon is the head of the team. Cut him off and they are likely done. The same can be said for Porzingis, which further raises the stakes in this matchup.
Gordon is not the easy assignment he was early in his career. He is shooting a career-high 44.0 percent from three, nearly double his previous career average. His effective field goal percentage is also at a career-best at 60.3. He’s a rising star, but he is still no Porzingis. Assuming KP is at 100 percent–which he said is the only way he is returning to action–then he still holds the advantage.
Gordon can jump out of the gym in a single bound, but that still may not be tall enough to get past Porzingis’ outstretched arms. Porzingis can get any shot he pleases, especially if he is physical in the post. Prior to his ankle injury, he had been drifting near the three-point line. If he takes it to Gordon early, maybe early foul trouble or mere feasting down low can set the tempo for the rest of the game.
Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
UPDATE: 2:49 p.m EST.
Porzingis (ankle) and Hardaway Jr. (leg) are both out today. However, Ntilikina is active while Noah is active after the late Hardaway Jr. news.