After snapping their losing streak, the Knicks play a second consecutive matinee game, this time at home against the hurting Magic.
There’s no rest for the weary, as the New York Knicks suit up for their third game in four days. They’ll look to build off of Sunday’s win in Boston with a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday matinee against the Orlando Magic.
Since an exciting above-.500 start to the season, New York enters Monday with a 6-8 record after breaking that five-game losing streak. The team returns home to host the Magic (6-7), who are facing a five-game losing skid of their own.
It’ll be the first meeting between both teams this season. Last year, they split the shortened two-game regular-season series. Orlando won 95-83 on October 30th, 2019, before the Knicks got their revenge on February 6th, 2020, in a narrow 105-103 victory.
The Magic completed the 2019–20 season with a 33-40 record—just enough to make the postseason, where they were ultimately knocked out by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games.
Knicks-Magic is set to tip-off at 12 p.m. ET on Monday.
The Vuce is Loose
The Knicks aren’t the only team with a big man that’s enjoying a great start to the season.
While Markelle Fultz recovers from season-ending knee surgery, Vucevic is leading the team in nearly every category. He’s averaging a team-high 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Although Orlando is undergoing a rough patch right now, Vucevic is not responsible for any of the blame.
In the Magic’s last game against Brooklyn on Saturday, he had 34 points, 10 boards, seven assists, and five steals. He enjoyed the stat-stuffing performance while shooting pretty well on the floor, going 14-of-22 overall and 6-for-12 from deep.
He’s looked great in losses, despite the attention he garners from opposing defenses. Vucevic can easily rack up double-doubles, but he’s showing expanded parts to his game this season. His passing ability has improved and maybe Fultz’s absence has given him more opportunities to showcase that.
Aside from that, he’s also gotten more comfortable from the three-point line. Vucevic had previously shown that he can take-and-make the three in years past, but not at the same clip as right now. He’s letting it fly more than he’s ever had before while hitting on 42.7% of his long-range shots. If he continues at this pace, he’s bound for a career-best showing from the perimeter.
There’s no doubt that limiting Vucevic will be crucial for the Knicks’ chances of a victory on Monday.
Apart from Vucevic, Terrence Ross has been playing well off the bench. He’s the team’s second-highest scorer as the sixth man, averaging 16.2 points per game. Aaron Gordon and Cole Anthony are secondary scoring options, but ultimately, most of the workload comes from Vucevic.
It’s been said before and echoed a bunch of times, but until it happens, there’s no choice but to reinforce it. It’s time to give Immanuel Quickley the nod over Elfrid Payton.
🗣🗣 START IMMANUEL QUICKLEY
• 17 points on 7/12 FG (2/4 3PT)
• 8 assists
• 1 steal, 1 block
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 18, 2021
The Knicks rookie just continues to impress each time he’s on the floor and Sunday was another instance of where he performed well above the point guard in front of him.
Maybe it’s about keeping a rookie’s ego in check or wanting that reliable sixth man off the bench, but the margin between Payton and Quickley is rapidly growing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have things stay the way they are.