Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Today we come together to proudly honor the life and legacy of Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/VHrN9B3Vv1— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 18, 2021
The Magic head to Madison Square Garden to take part in the Knicks’ annual MLK Day matinee.
It was expected to be a “one losing streak must come to an end” type of game, but then the Knicks surprisingly routed the Celtics, 105-75, in Boston on Sunday to snap their five-game losing streak.
Now about 20 hours after that game ended, the Knicks tip off against a Magic team on a five-game losing streak of its own.
The Knicks have jumped out to a better start than expected this season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, starting the season 5-3 before hitting that skid.
Starting for the Knicks is a familiar face in former Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, but that soon could change with the emergence of rookie Immanuel Quickley. Quickley, the 25th pick in the 2020 draft, has seen a recent increase in playing time and over his last three games has averaged 21.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 24.9 minutes, while shooting 50% from the field and 46.2% on 6.5 three-point attempts per. Amazing how shooting can be found late in the draft, isn’t it?
Quickly scored 17 points against the Celtics, combining with fellow rookie Obi Toppin (12 points), to give the Knicks some scoring punch off the bench.
The Knicks, led by Julius Randle (22.9 PPG) and R.J. Barrett (16.8 PPG), have the league’s third worst offensive rating at 104.9 points per 100 possessions. Under Thibs, however, the team currently boasts a top-10 defense that’s allowing 107.6 points per 100 possessions (eighth best).
They’ll face a Magic offense that cracked the 100-point mark for the first time in five games on Saturday in a loss to James Harden’s Nets. The shorthanded Magic, over their five-game losing streak, have posted the league’s second worst offensive rating at a meager 100.6 points per, with a true shooting percentage of just 50.2%, also second worst in the league over that span.
There were, however, encouraging signs in their last outing as their offense found some rhythm and hit some shots (14 threes) seemingly for the first time since Markelle Fultz went down with a torn ACL, which Steve Clifford admitted on Saturday “took a lot out of us.”
“[Saturday] was the first time since the Cleveland game where I think that we started to find a belief in the way that we can play. So we have a chance to take a step forward.”
Taking a step forward will certainly be easier if Nikola Vucevic posts another history performance, as he did against Brooklyn...
The one and only...VOOOOOOOOCH! pic.twitter.com/w17SSIY1Yy— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 17, 2021
Monday’s game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Cole Anthony, who plays for the first time in Madison Square Garden, where his dad, Greg Anthony, played for the Knicks for four seasons in the early 1990s. The Magic point guard had arguably his best performance of the season against Brooklyn, matching a personal-best with 16 points and setting a career-high with 8 assists. It was also the first time he hit multiple threes in a game (2-for-5).
The Magic again will be without Evan Fournier, who will miss his ninth straight game with back spasms.
Who: Orlando Magic (6-7) vs. New York Knicks (6-8)
When: Monday at noon
Where: Madison Square Garden - New York, New York
TV: Fox Sports Florida, NBATV