Knicks look to build winning streak vs. Magic

NBA Basketball

The New York Knicks enjoyed a resounding victory that felt like it was five years in the making on Sunday when they routed the Boston Celtics.

Or was it just five losses in the making?

Fewer than 24 hours after the win over the Celtics, the Knicks look to build a winning streak on Monday when they host the Orlando Magic in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.

The visiting Knicks ended a five-game losing streak Sunday by snapping the Celtics’ five-game winning streak with a 105-75 victory. The Magic sustained their fifth straight loss Saturday by dropping a 122-115 decision to the host Brooklyn Nets.

The Knicks led by as many as 37 points in the fourth quarter Sunday on their way to the franchise’s first 30-point win since a 128-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on March 9, 2016. It was also the first 30-point win for New York over Boston since a 102-70 victory on Nov. 4, 1997.

The win was cathartic for the Knicks and first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, who celebrated his 63rd birthday on Sunday. The gift was seeing New York yield some dividends from the preparation it put in and experiences gleaned during the five-game losing streak.

After losing three straight games by double-digit margins, the Knicks mounted a late comeback in a 116-109 loss to the Nets last Wednesday. They also had a chance to take the lead in the final minute of a 106-103 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

“I told our players this: The way they’re practicing — the attitude, the approach and how they’re practicing — has been a positive,” Thibodeau said Sunday afternoon. “(On Friday) I thought we were terrific in the shoot-around and we played well enough to win on the road. We didn’t close out the game we would’ve liked. Then (Saturday) in practice, I thought was terrific. As long as we’re doing the right things, I know we’ll improve and we’ll keep getting better.”

The Magic hope a similar breakthrough is imminent. Orlando’s losing streak began Jan. 8, two days after point guard Markelle Fultz sustained a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee during a 105-94 victory over the Cavaliers.

The Magic, who were 6-2 with Fultz in the lineup, fell by double figures in each of the next four games and lost three of those by at least 22 points. But Orlando looked re-energized in a challenging situation against the new-look Nets on Saturday, when James Harden made his Brooklyn debut with a triple-double.

“Let’s be honest — and I talked about this candidly with the group today — the Markelle injury has taken a lot out of us,” Magic head coach Steve Clifford said Saturday night. “We have other guys down too, but tonight was the first time since the Cleveland game where I think that we started to find a belief in a way that we could play, so we have a chance to take a step forward.”

The Magic also played Saturday without Evan Fournier (back spasms), Michael Carter-Williams (foot), Chuma Okeke (knee) and Mo Bamba (coronavirus protocols).

The Knicks are 19-13 all-time at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. New York was on the road for the holiday last season when it posted a 106-86 win over the Cavaliers for just the second time since 1987.

–Field Level Media

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