Tonight, the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks will square off for the first time since early December. Obviously, neither team is exactly as it was during the most recent meeting, with Orlando shuffling Matt Barnes into the starting lineup in Mickael Pietrus' place, and New York making a series of cap-clearing trades in order to boost their chances of signing a marquee free agent this summer. One of those deals involved shipping Nate Robinson, a Magic-killer, to Boston, where he's since fallen out of the rotation; another involved bringing in Tracy McGrady, a Magic-killer in a much different sense of the term, according to some fans. Coming off microfracture knee surgery, McGrady hasn't looked great this year. Marc Berman of the New York Post elaborates:
Since McGrady arrived in the Feb. 18 blockbuster, the Knicks are 3-0 when McGrady sits -- 6-16 when he plays. He's averaging 9.8 points, shooting just 39 percent. His jumper is a mess and he has shown no evidence of regaining explosion. He said even squatting for his jump shot is an adjustment because of the knee.
He also reports that McGrady is less worried with how he plays and more worried with how he feels:
"What matters to me is my health," said McGrady, who lived briefly in the Isleworth community near Tiger Woods. "I don't care how I play in Orlando. It's not like we need the game for the playoffs."
It seems pretty clear that if the Knicks win tonight, McGrady won't be a factor. But who might be?
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|28-50 (11-28 road)
|55-23 (32-7 home)
|April 9th, 2010|
|Chris Duhon||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Tracy McGrady||SG||Vince Carter|
|Danilo Gallinari||SF||Matt Barnes|
|David Lee||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Earl Barron||C||Dwight Howard|
|November 29th: Magic 114, Knicks 102|
|December 2nd: Magic 118, Knicks 104|
|94.1 (6th)||Pace||92.0 (18th)|
|107.1 (17th)||ORtg||110.7 (8th)|
|110.8 (26th)||DRtg||102.9 (3rd)|
The temptation is to say that David Lee will be the key, even though he's stuck playing power forward now, as opposed to center, where he earned his first-ever All-Star gig this season. He developed a jumper basically overnight, he's among the league's best rebounders and garbagemen around the hoop, and he's an excellent passer from the high post. He's their best player, and if Rashard Lewis doesn't keep an eye on him, he's good enough to lead them to a win. Reserve swingman Bill Walker, obtained from the Celtics as part of the Robinson trade, has played well since getting burn in New York and has the handle and athleticism to make life difficult for Vince Carter off the bench. And Danilo Gallinari can really fill it up, and has before, against Orlando's D. The Magic lollygagged through the first half against the Wizards on Wednesday as Washington rattled in a series of long two-pointers before falling off. The same thing could happen tonight, with the difference being that Gallinari, Walker, and Toney Douglas know where the three-point line is and can convert from beyond it, which could help New York hang around even longer, and even win, if the Magic aren't careful.
But that's only half the game, and the Knicks don't figure to have enough on the other side of the floor to stop the Magic. Not sure how groundbreaking that idea is. New York last held a team to below league-average offensive efficiency on March 19th in a win over Philadelphia. Its last 9 opponents have crossed that threshold, including monster performances by Phoenix (130.7), Portland (128.3), and Golden State (121.9). The Knicks don't have any shot-blockers to discourage dribble-penetration, and no solid perimeter defenders either. Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Lewis, Pietrus... just everyone, right down the line, should attack the rim tonight.