The Orlando Magic continue their road trip as they take on the New York Knicks hoping to build on their strong showing in a loss Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Orlando Magic (6-7) vs. New York Knicks (6-8)
Time/TV: 12 p.m./NBATV, FOX Sports Florida
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2020 Season Series: Magic 95, Knicks 83 in Orlando on Oct. 30; Knicks 105, Magic 103 in New York on Feb. 6
2021 Season Series: Today in New York City; Feb. 17 in Orlando
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Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford admitted after the team’s loss Saturday that the injury to Markelle Fultz had affected the team emotionally more than they had probably let on. The team was still trying to find its way and gain confidence. It was easy to see them turn back. Saturday’s game was the first time the team played with the spirit and intensity they will ultimately need. The question is whether this will carry over. Especially against an opponent that is easily overlooked. This will be a test of the Orlando Magic’s focus. But they are desperate for a win — just as the New York Knicks were in Boston on Sunday. They should carry things over.
3 Keys To Watch
Nikola Vucevic on the inside and out
Nikola Vucevic is starting to get the respect he has long deserved for his stellar play. He has somehow increased his play and taken a bigger step up. His individual numbers have been up since Markelle Fultz got hurt. The Magic are not losing because of Vucevic and his ability to attack from inside and out has been key.
It is not clear who the New York Knicks will put on Vucevic. If it is Mitchell Robinson, then Nikola Vucevic can probably drag him out to the perimeter and leave the lane open for drivers to get to the basket. If it is Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic can get into the post. The fact Vucevic is able to score and both levels makes him such a dangerous player. He is going to get his one way or another.
Those tuning in at noon on Monday are going to get treated to basketball that may make them want to gouge their eyes out. And that is not even considering that this will be a noon tip-off which are notorious for their offensive futility. The Orlando Magic and the New York Knicks are two of the worst offensive teams in the league. They both have one of the five-worst offensive ratings and the league. The Magic have the worst effective field goal percentage in the league.
The New York Knicks and Orlando Magic are coming off one of their best offensive efforts in a while in their last game — the Magic in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday and the Knicks in a win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday. So maybe this will not be so bad. Neither of these teams are great 3-point shooting teams. Whoever makes shots will probably win.
Terrence Ross has struggled a ton since Markelle Fultz’s injury. He is averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting 17.4-percent from beyond the arc in the last five games. It is not good. And the Magic are not going to win many games if this is what they are getting from Ross. Part of the turnaround Saturday was Ross having something of a breakthrough — 23 points, 9-for-17 shooting overall and 3-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. It was not perfect, but it was a necessary step forward for him.
The New York Knicks play a lot of quality players off the bench — Austin Rivers and rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley most of all. They have some potent weapons that will put pressure on defenses and bring energy in these down times of the game. The Knicks are averaging just 31.1 points per game off the bench, the fourth-worst in the league. The Magic are averaging 39.4 points per game off the bench, the fourth-best. Getting Ross back to his regular production transforms the Magic into a much more dangerous team.