Basketball, a large crowd and Evan Fournier all return to Orlando on Friday.
The Magic, after playing last season in front of a limited capacity, host their home opener against the New York Knicks in front of what should be (or at least close to?) a sellout crowd.
Fans will get their first official look at Jalen Suggs, who struggled with his shot in the Magic’s 123-97 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, and Franz Wagner, who was one of the few bright spots for the Magic during his NBA debut.
Jamahl Mosley also makes his home debut as he looks for a much better defensive performance from a Magic team that struggled to contain the Spurs in transition, off turnovers and on the glass during a lopsided loss. He’ll also look to adjust his rotations - more than 19 minutes for Wendell Carter Jr. is a good starting point - as the second unit for the shorthanded Magic simply couldn’t keep the team in the game in San Antonio.
Protecting the ball offensively to limit their transiiton defense, and the Magic offense finding a way to overcome defensive switches in their half-court set, will be key for a young offensively-challenged team that can’t afford to give away possessions and points.
With Gary Harris out for a second straight game due to a hampstring issue - and with the Magic still without Chuma Okeke, Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams and E’Twaun Moore - expect the starting unit to remain Cole Anthony, Suggs, Wagner, Carter and Mo Bamba.
A seemingly revitalized Bamba - coming off an 18-point, 4-block performance - is likely to get the largest ovation from the opening night crowd.
Mo Bamba in 27 MIN played last night:— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) October 21, 2021
3-4 3FG pic.twitter.com/oeYpeDNrqs
Also receiving a warm welcome will be Fournier, who returns to Orlando for the second time since being dealt at last season’s trade deadline. In front of a mostly empty Amway Arena last May, Fournier had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Boston Celtics’ 132-96 win over the Magic. Fournier, who averaged 16.2 points per game over seven seasons in Orlando, signed a four-year, $78 million deal with the Knicks in the offseason.
He’s already become something of a fan favorite in New York after his first game on Wednesday, scoring 32 points and shining in overtime during the Knicks’ thrilling 138-134 double-OT win over the Celtics, his other former team.
Meanwhile, in New York... https://t.co/hRZEZCKZK4— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) October 22, 2021
Wishing him all the best, but knowing Fournier’s consistency issues the way we do, we’ll see how long that honeymoon lasts in New York.
All-Star Julius Randle dropped 35 points in the Knicks’ season-opener. Mitchell Robinson, coming off an injury-plagued season, got the start in place of Taj Gibson and recorded 11 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. Kemba Walker made his Knicks debut, registering 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists. And the Knicks got solid contributions from their last two lottery picks: R.J. Barrett (19 points, 5 rebounds) and Obi Toppin (14 points, 5 rebounds).
Gibson remains questionable for the Knicks following the birth of his child, and Nerlens Noel remains out with a knee injury. So, Tom Thibodeau again could elect to play small-ball at times against the Magic with Randle at the five and Toppin at the four.
The Knicks may have been in a shootout on opening night, but they boasted the top defense in the league last season, allowing just 104.7 points per game. Could make for another long night for the Orlando Magic.
Who: Orlando Magic (0-1) vs. New York Knicks (1-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida
TV: Bally Sports Florida
Line: Knicks -8.5, Over/Under 212.5