The Knicks take on the Magic in hopes of stringing together a four game winning streak.
Coming off of yet another impressive, come-from-behind victory, the New York Knicks are back in action tonight to try for their fourth straight win and seventh win in eight tries. Who thought we’d be here at this point? After the Knicks lost their first three games, the majority of the fanbase was feeling pessimistic, and rightfully so. The Knicks were worse than the Nets, the Knicks can’t play defense, Tim Hardaway Jr. is awful. The outlook on the season, even after just three games, was bleak.
Now, thanks to the otherworldly performance of Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks suddenly look like they’ll be contending for a playoff spot this season. Now, they’ve played a lot of home games, and there are some trends that simply can’t continue with their performance as a whole, but the Knicks are fun right now, so let’s bathe in the glory while it lasts. The Magic will be one of the teams fighting with the Knicks for the six through eight spots in the Eastern Conference as the season trudges on, so this one represents a good test for this New York squad. Back-to-backs are always tough, especially when considering the physical and emotional toll that fourth quarter comebacks have on a team, but the Knicks will have to bring it tonight nonetheless. A few thoughts:
- Porzingis is questionable tonight with his ankle and elbow banged up. If KP misses tonight, look for Hardaway Jr. to, ahem, chuck. It’s not ridiculous to say THJ has struggled a bit this season, yet he’s still averaging over 16 points per game while averaging 3.7 assists over his last six games. He’s made just 2 of 12 three pointers from the corners, equating to a dreadful conversion rate that simply has to get better. The shot selection has been poor, especially from deep, but I’m encouraged by his willingness as a passer and ability to be a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. If he gets those percentages up, look out.
- Can the Knicks keep this going? Is it possible? As good as KP has been, his shooting numbers have to scale back at least a little bit, right? He’s shooting over 50 percent from the floor while over 70 percent of his attempts are jump shots. He can keep up the things he’s done well to a certain degree, including his improved post play and self-realization that he is 75 inches tall, but it just has to scale back a bit. With that being said, he stands to improve around the rim, so we could see all of this even out in the long run. Let’s hope Porzingis is in the lineup tonight so we can continue to evaluate his progression.
- If this game is close again going into the fourth quarter, who will Jeff Hornacek go with? Lance Thomas, Frank Ntilikina, and Doug McDermott have received serious burn in the closing moments of the last two affairs against Indiana and Charlotte, the former two for their defensive prowess and the latter for his shooting and cutting ability. It seems that the most likely lineup Hornacek will close with is Ntilikina, Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Thomas, and Porzingis.
- Speaking of McDermott, how nice has he been for this team? He’s scored in the 90th percentile of all cutters in the NBA this season, and the chemistry between him and Kyle O’Quinn is palpable. His shot will always be there, and as long as the Knicks keep deploying him in the correct role, he can continue to be a great cog for this team off the bench.
- The Magic got off to a fantastic start this season, winning four of their first five, including wins against Cleveland and San Antonio. That Cleveland win doesn’t look quite as impressive now considering that the Cavaliers look like they’ll be sleepwalking until April, but the Magic have been impressive in the eyes of many. They’ve had the talent for a while, with their biggest issue being a simple question of fit, and they’re finally looking like they mean business. Despite being due for some obvious regression towards the mean, and the fact that I’m not crazy high on the Magic maintaining their status in the Eastern Conference playoffs, they have a talent laden roster full of challenges for the Knicks. Aaron Gordon is well on his way towards a full-fledged breakout (and he’s nailing threes!), Nikola Vucevic is back to being one of the most formidable post players in the league (he’s also nailing threes!), and Evan Fournier continues to prove that he is better than Arron Afflalo ever was (he’s STILL nailing threes!). Hold up. Sources are telling me Arron Afflalo is on this year’s Magic team? That can’t be real! Must be his corpse.
- Elfrid Payton will be a game-time call for the Magic tonight. With D.J. Augustin also out, I’d feel much better about the Knicks’ chances of winning if Payton remains out of the lineup:
Since losing DJ Augustin (after losing Elfrid Payton), the Magic's offense has fallen off a cliff.
Offensive Rating (League Rank):
First 8 Games: 109.9 (2)
Last 2 Games: 85.9 (30)
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 8, 2017
- The Magic are the second-best team in the league against the three point ball, but they won’t stay that high. I have a sneaking suspicion the Knicks set their season high in three pointers made tonight if Porzingis plays. Book it.
- On the other end of the floor, the Magic are second in the league in three point percentage. Quick, name an elite three point shooter on the Magic. *waits patiently…twiddles thumbs…watches Porzingis highlights* Sure, Evan Fournier is a good shooter, but the Magic are getting outlandish performances from Vucevic, Gordon, and Marreese Speights from downtown. There are a ton of red flags when you dig deeper on this Orlando team; the only question for tonight is if those flags continue to perpetuate below the surface, and start to rise up the flagpole.
- Another bright spot for this Orlando squad has been Spurs castoff Jonathan Simmons. He’s done a great job as the primary option on the second unit, taking it to lesser competition that the opposition has thrown at him off the bench. When the stars hit the pine and the second units are given a chance to have the spotlight, limiting Simmons will be important for the Knicks to bridge the gap between minutes for their studs.
Check out our very own Jeffrey Bellone’s preview for tonight’s game, and throw him a follow on Twitter for the absolute best breakdown of Knicks basketball on the internet. Tip at 7 p.m. tonight from the Amway Center:
UPDATE: 5:33 p.m. EST.
The Knicks have ruled Porzingis out tonight against the Magic, per ESPN’s Ian Begley. The injuries include a sprained left ankle and a contused right elbow. Somebody protest KP, please.