|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|November 29th, 2009|
|Madison Square Garden|
|Jason Williams||PG||Chris Duhon|
|Vince Carter||SG||Larry Hughes|
|Mickael Pietrus||SF||Wilson Chandler|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Danilo Gallinari|
|Dwight Howard||C||David Lee|
|Tommy Nuñez Jr.|
The Orlando Magic will look to close out a tough stretch of their schedule with a win tonight against the New York Knicks in their only visit to Madison Square Garden this season. The winless New Jersey Nets are the only thing keeping 3-13 New York out of the East's cellar. Because the Knicks employ Mike D'Antoni, who made a name for himself designing the Phoenix Suns' "Seven Seconds or Less" offensive attack, they have a reptuation as an offensive juggernaut. Oddly, their defense (24th in efficiency) has been slightly better than their offense (25th), which isn't saying much. New York is largely bereft of talent, save for Danilo Gallinari, who leads the NBA with 44 three-pointers made this season, at a 41.9% clip; supersub guard Nate Robinson; and double-double machine David Lee. Chris Duhon, their starting point guard, is shooting 25.4% from the field on nearly 8 attempts per game, which is absurdly improbable. They are, in short, quite a bad team.
With that said, they'll be a tough match for the Magic tonight. Orlando, on the second night of a back-to-back, will have to contend with the league's second-fastest-paced team, as the Knicks average 96.7 possessions per game. And last night's game went down to the wire, with 3 Magic starters (Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, and Jason Williams) playing at least 34 minutes. Tonight's another game in which it'll be important for the Magic's bench to provide a lift.
Orlando must continue to run its offense through Howard, who's strung together two brilliant games in a row for the first time all season. The only Knicks with enough size to disrupt Howard is the former Magic player Darko Milicic, who's played fewer total minutes than all but 3 Knicks so far this season as he counts the days before he can return to dominating in Europe; and Eddy Curry, whose defense is as bad as his reputation suggests it is. I expect the Knicks to send plenty of extra defenders at Howard, daring him to make the right pass. And that could be dangerous for Orlando, as the Knicks are 4th in opponent turnover rate. Then again, it can also be dangerous for the Knicks; guess incorrectly on a steal attempt, and they leave a Magic shooter open, and the Knicks are 28th in effective field goal percentage defense.
In spite of the talent disparity, I do think this game could be close. The Magic will be tired, they're playing a fast-paced team that'll be especially motivated to win--Robinson always relishes playing against Howard--and the Knicks have given good teams a scare before, taking the Celtics to overtime last week before Kevin Garnett beat them with a long two-point jumper at the buzzer. They also lost to the Nuggets by 3 despite Carmelo Anthony's 50-point outing.
Tip's at 6, or a mere 21 hours after last night's game got started. Orlando needs only put in one more great effort to close out this challenging portion of its schedule.