New York Knicks @ Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic will play host to the New York Knicks on Friday night. The Magic are locked in to the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference but still could pass the Los Angeles Lakers and gain homecourt advantage against the Lakers should the two teams meet in the NBA Finals for the second straight season. Currently, the two teams are tied with the Lakers holding the tie-breaker. Orlando will also be looking for their third consecutive victory. They blew out the Washington Wizards 121-94 on Wednesday. The Knicks, who won two straight games before falling to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, look to finish the season on a high note.

The Knicks and the Magic have met twice this season and the Magic took both meetings. The Magic defeated the Knicks 114-102 in New York on November 29th and in Orlando 118-104 just three days later.

NBA

The 28-50 Knicks have gone through another difficult season. The Magic, who Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said will not rest players down the stretch, are 55-23. The Knicks are 11-28 on the road while the Magic have been excellent at home – they are 32-7 at Amway Arena.

Tip-off from the Am is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST. The game will be aired locally by Sun Sports. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

Jonathan Bender (left ring finger surgery), Wilson Chandler (strained left groin), Eddy Curry (torn right calf/arthroscopic left knee surgery) and Al Harrinton (arthroscopic right shoulder surgery) are all out for the rest of the season.

The Line: Orlando – 11.5

Starters:

New York Knicks

David Lee
Earl Barron
Danilo Gallinari
Tracy McGrady
Chris Duhon

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

The Knicks score 101.9 points per game but are just 17th in offensive rating (107.1) because of their pace (94.1, sixth in the NBA). The Knicks’ defense is atrocious. They give up 105.4 points per game and rank 26th in defensive rating (110.8).

All-Star David Lee has been excellent for the Knicks this season. Lee is averaging 20.2 points per game on 54.4% shooting and is grabbing 11.9 rebounds per game. Lee’s most impressive game as a pro numbers-wise came April 2nd against the Warriors when he scored 37 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and dished out 10 assists. Lee is also second in the Eastern Conference with 52 double-doubles-, eight behind Magic Center Dwight Howard.

Lee has, however, had trouble against the Magic this season. Although the Knicks have managed to score against Orlando this season (103.0 points per game in two games), Lee has not. Lee is averaging just 14.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Those are certainly respectable numbers, but they are way down from his season average and shows just how tough it is to score in the paint against a team that features Howard, who has a bigger impact on the defensive end of court than any other player in the league.

Howard has also been effective on offense against the Knicks, scoring 21.5 points per game in thw two meetings.

With New York’s second (Harrington) and third (Chandler) leading scorers out, the Knicks have had to find offense from other players. Danilo Galinari is averaging 14.6 points per game and has had both a 31-point and 29-point game over his last four games. The second-year forward is still very inconsistent, scoring in single digits in two of his last five games.

Former Magic wing Tracy McGrady, who recently claimed he’d like tor return to Orlando, has not made much of an impact for the Knicks, averaging just 9.8 points per game over 22 games.

Two youngsters have really picked up their play for the Knicks.

Guard Bill Walker, who was acquired when the Knicks dealt Nate Robinson to the Boston Celtics, has averaged 15.0 points per game over his last five games and has even posted four 20+ point games for the Knicks.

Rookie Guard Toney Douglas has also been very good for New York. Douglas, despite an injury, averaged12.7 points and 3.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game in March and has averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game in April. Douglas is coming a 20-point game on Wednesday. He scored 17 points against the Magic in just 21 minutes on December 2nd.

The Magic should be able to score at will against the Knicks. They have averaged 116.0 points on 52.8% shooting agaisnt the Knicks so far this season.

Van Gundy says he isn’t going to rest players because he isn’t going to hold them out of games if they’re healthy but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t love to get off to a quick start and rely more on Orlando’s deep bench, which accounted for 65 points on Wednesday, to play a lot of minutes and give the starters somewhat of a break.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks and Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).