Julius Randle and the Knicks are in Orlando for one night against the depleted Magic, with New York searching for a fourth straight win.
The New York Knicks (14-15) will look to climb back to .500 as they take on a depleted Orlando Magic (10-18) team. The Knicks are riding the high of three straight wins and, most recently, Julius Randle’s 44-point masterclass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.
Unlike the Magic, the Knicks will be relatively healthy for the contest save for missing Mitchell Robinson, who had successful surgery on his right hand Tuesday. All eyes will once again be on Randle, Immanuel Quickley, and Derrick Rose as Tom Thibodeau’s gritty bunch continue their climb up from the Eastern Conference basement.
Here are some things for which to look out.
Missing the Magic
The question Knicks fans should ask themselves tonight is not who isn’t playing for the Magic, but instead who is playing. The Magic will be without:
- Aaron Gordon
- Jonathan Isaac
- Evan Fournier
- Markelle Fultz
- Cole Anthony
- Al-Farouq Aminu
James Ennis could join the group; he is questionable with a groin injury. All these injuries should allow Thibodeau to craft a defensive strategy containing Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, the only remaining threats on the roster.
Julius Randle had a Presidents’ Day performance he will not soon forget. Randle had his best scoring performance since joining the Knicks, dropping 44 points (one off of his career-high of 45 points) and a career-high seven three-pointers in a close win over the Hawks.
Randle did whatever he damn well pleased against John Collins and even Clint Capela at times. He will have little to no friction tonight with no Gordon to worry about. Randle is always free to operate as he pleases, but Thibodeau may give Randle a greener light if such a thing were possible, with Randle seeing guys smaller than him (Ennis) or slower (Vucevic) a large portion of the night.
Player to Watch: R.J. Barrett
R.J. Barrett has had a forgettable February, averaging 12.6 points per game and shooting 41.6% from the field. Barrett has re-developed his tunnel vision in transition, opting for circus layups instead of making the extra pass. The unwillingness to pass is not too concerning and should be credited to his shooting struggles in recent weeks.
The good news for Barrett is he is facing a team he played well against a month ago, leading the Knicks to a 91-84 victory at the Garden. In that game, Barrett had 22 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists, carrying his team to the win. Success against a familiar foe could be exactly what Barrett needs to snap out of his funk.
- Frank Ntilikina should be back with the team after quarantining due to close contact with someone who tested positive. It is unlikely Ntilikina sees any floor time with the Knicks playing well.
- Thibodeau finally brought out the closing lineup we all wanted: Quickley, Barrett, Randle with Nerlens Noel filling in admirably for Mitchell Robinson and Derrick Rose rounding it out. The result was an exciting win, and truth be told, fans would have been content regardless of the result because of who was out there in the final minutes. Here is to hoping this was not a one-off and we see more of this tonight.
Tip-off is 7 p.m. ET from Orlando.