The New York Knicks are experiencing a rare bit of prosperity and the Orlando Magic would like to stop it, especially with who the opponent is in their next home game.
Orlando hopes to prevent the Knicks from tying a season-high with a third straight win Thursday night when it visits New York on the second night of a back-to-back hours after the trade deadline.
Orlando’s visit to New York is sandwiched around games with Milwaukee and Boston, which currently hold two of the three top spots in the Eastern Conference. Orlando will face the Knicks after taking a 116-100 loss in Boston and then return home to face the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
The Magic enter Thursday in eighth place and 1 1/2 games behind the Nets, whom they visit on Feb. 24. Orlando is 1-6 in its last seven games, with five of those losses coming by double-digits against teams with winning records (Boston twice, Miami twice, Los Angeles Clippers).
Orlando is coming off a sub-par second half Wednesday when it was outscored 59-44, shot 31.6 percent and allowed Boston to shoot 51.1 percent.
“We got to make some plays and I actually thought it’s one of the better games (of late),” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said after his team also shot 27.3 percent in the fourth.
The Magic are hoping for a better outing Thursday, especially since they are 17-6 against sub-.500 opponents and also head into the All-Star break with games against Atlanta and Detroit.
The Knicks enter on their third winning streak of the season and are trying to win three straight games for the second time this season. New York also won three in a row from Dec. 26-Jan. 1 and then lost 12 of 16 before getting a 92-85 win in Indiana on Saturday and a 139-134 overtime win in Cleveland Monday.
Those wins occurred after a 127-106 home loss to Memphis on Jan. 29 when fans loudly chanted “Sell The Team” in the final seconds toward owner Jim Dolan. Dolan did not sell the team but he fired team President Steve Mills on Tuesday and replaced him with GM Scott Perry, who addressed the players Wednesday.
“We’ve had a lot of things happen throughout the year,” Knicks forward Julius Randle told reporters after practice. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep doing our job, keep playing with passion and determination and all those type of things. So that’s all we can focus on.”
Mills was fired after holding the title of team president since the start of 2013-14 season. Under his tenure, the Knicks went 178-365 without making the playoffs and are on their sixth coach, including Mike Miller, who is 11-18 since taking over on an interim basis when David Fizdale was fired on Dec. 6.
The Knicks could be without Marcus Morris, who is averaging a career-high 19.6 points and scored 26 in Monday’s win. Signed to a one-year, $15 million deal, Morris is highly coveted entering the trade deadline and among the teams interested in the forward are the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
“I’m aware of that part,” Morris told reporters after the Cleveland game when asked about trade rumors. “I’ve said it since the day I stopped here, I want to be with the Knicks. It’s not my call.”
Orlando is 7-2 in the past nine meetings. In the first meeting this season, the Magic held the Knicks to 37.8 percent shooting in a 95-83 home win on Oct. 30.
–Field Level Media