The Knicks fell to the Grizzlies in overtime on opening night, but pulverized the Pistons by 24 last Friday. Their competitive play should carry into tonight’s tilt against a Magic team that has dropped their first three contests.
Orlando has lost by an average of 6.6 points and shown enough flashes of competency to indicate an upward trajectory. They stayed neck and neck throughout Saturday’s loss to the Boston Celtics. Wiz kid rookie Paolo Banchero is living up to his pre-draft hype, and sophomore Franz Wagner has resumed where he left off. Add in Jalen Suggs (out—ankle), Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter, Jr., and Markelle Fultz, and that’s an interesting young core. Not a Finals champion, but a team with promising pieces.
When the Knicks suffered a surprising loss to the Magic in their third game of last season, I developed an unpleasant suspicion that New York might not reach the playoffs. And they didn’t. Here we go again, with the Knicks facing the Magic in the third game of their schedule. This time around, though, we have Jalen Brunson. I’m happy to report no sinking feelings yet.
Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m., wand wavers.
Cole Anthony will conduct this magical band of precocious Floridian neophytes tonight. In his third season, Greg Anthony’s son is averaging 19.5 points and four assists while shooting 56% from the field and 60% from deep (6-for-10). 60!
The 22-year-old has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio thus far, which is respectable. What’s better? Zero turnovers. In two games, Brunson has fifteen assists without coughing up the rock once. Stick that in your He’s-Just-a-Combo-Guard pipe and smoke it.
Terrence Ross (6’6”, 206 lb.) is the veteran of this starting unit, competing in his 11th year. Over three games, he’s averaging 34 minutes and 17.7 points, the highest numbers of his career for both categories.
The 31-year-old Ross has shot 9-for-20 (45%) from three this season and is prone to scorching the Knicks. Evan Fournier had better be inspired to play defense against his old club, or Cam Reddish will get the action. As for Quentin Grimes’s foot…nothing to see here, move along.
Franz Wagner (6’9”, 225 lb.) is off to a solid start, with 15.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 44% from the floor. The 21-year-old former Michigan Wolverine needs to improve his three-point shooting, though. He’s taken five per game but converting only 27%. 27!
Speaking of needing to work on his range from downtown: RJ Barrett has started the 2022-23 campaign by shooting 0-for-9 from beyond the arc. Sinking three tonight seems a reasonable goal.
The top pick in this year’s draft, Paolo Banchero is already a team leader for Orlando. Averaging 23.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, the former Duke Blue Devil has been the definition of plug-and-play.
At 6’10”, 250 lb., Banchero stands taller than Julius Randle, but experience should benefit Randle tonight. Julius has played well through the first two games, and I’d bet he’s eager to teach the 19-year-old upstart some things.
Wendell Carter, Jr. (6’10”, 270 lbs) is yet another former Blue Devil. They’re everywhere. W.C. Is off to a double-double start with averages of 13.3 points and 10.3 boards.
Mitchell Robinson had foul trouble early against the Grizz but committed only two against Detroit. According to Statmuse.com, Mitch has averaged 10.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in six games versus Carter in his career.
My five-year-old thinks I know magic because I can perform an adequate French Drop and can find his card in the deck. One day, I spent an hour making things disappear and reappear to his delight—quarters, pens, the dog. We had a blast. That’s what I predict for the Knicks tonight: an entertaining victory to the enjoyment of the Garden crowd.
What’s more, we’ll see Banchero in his first game against New York. He should provide some oohs, maybe a couple ahhs. Given his talent, he’s sure to play at MSG many more times in his career. This first one will end in a home team victory, though. Knicks by 10.
The Mecca. Monday. 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Rah rah Knicks!