Tom Thibodeau is finishing off the second-worst season of his 10-year career as an NBA head coach. (The 2016-17 Timberwolves went 31-51 and .378.) His New York Knicks are 34-44 and shut out of the playoffs, which is a far cry from the preseason expectations for this team. The latest indignity was a 119-101 bashing from the Cavaliers yesterday. Tonight, New York zips to Florida to try their luck again.
In his first year as a head coach, Jamahl Mosley has led the Orlando Magic to a 20-58 record. They are dead last in the Eastern Conference, with the 16th ranked defense and 30th offense. They have lost five straight and are 2-8 over their last 10. Nobody that I know envisioned any higher aspirations for this squad at the start of the campaign. And as far as I know, nobody is calling for Mosley’s scalp.
For as bad as the Magic have been this year, they lead the season series with the Knicks 2-1. Oh, sure, New York trounced Orlando 121-96 in the second game of the season, back when we were positive the Knicks would run deep into the playoffs. Egg, meet face.
Since then, the Magic have had the Knicks’ number. They won the last matchup at MSG, 104-98. Terrence Ross (The Inhumane Torch) scored 19 points for the Fighting Disneys. RJ Barrett led the charge for New York with 17 points, and Mitchell Robinson contributed a tidy 13 points and 11 rebounds, finishing +8.
The Magic have four starters on the injury report. What are the odds that the Knicks even out the season series and salvage some dignity before the curtain falls? I bet DraftKings Sportsbook could tell ya. Would I put money on this game? No, sir, I would not.
Tip-off’s at 6:00 p.m., little mermaids.
Cole Anthony is listed as questionable with a sprained toe. Expect to see the second coming of Markelle Fultz (6’3”, 209 lbs) starting at point guard. Fultz has averaged 10.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 14 games since returning from ACL repair. He’s playing 18.6 minutes per game, shooting 45% from the field and 27% from Threeville (on less than one attempt on average).
Sophomore R.J. Hampton (6’4”, 175 lbs) will likely start for rookie Jalen Suggs (ankle, O). Hampton has averaged 7.3 points and three rebounds in about 21 minutes per game. The 20-year old shoots 38% from the floor, 35% from beyond the arc. Hampton will square off against former Magician Evan Fournier, who had 19 points yesterday on 60% shooting.
Terrence Ross (6’6”, 206 lbs) is expected to start for rookie Franz Wagner (ankle, DD). In his 10th year, the former Husky is averaging 10 points and 2.5 rebounds in about 23 minutes per game. Ross is shooting 40% from the floor and 30% from deep on 4.1 attempts… BUT, in 30 games against the Knicks, Terry has shot 40% from three on almost six attempts, and in his last five games versus New York, he’s averaged 20.4 points and shot 51% from three. It’s not hyperbole: the dude is a Knicks killer. Let’s hope RJ Barrett sprinkled some Defense Powder on his Wheaties this morning.
Chuma Okeke (6’6”, 229 lbs) will probably fill in for Wendell Carter, Jr. (wrist, DD). In his second year in the Association, Okeke has averaged 8.4 points, 4.8 boards, and 25 minutes in 66 games. With Julius Randle shelved for the remainder of the season, Obi Toppin will start at Power Forward for New York. Obi Uno scored a career-high 20 points in 30 minutes yesterday.
Mo Bamba (7’, 231 lbs) will start for Mo Bamba tonight. In his fourth season, the Harlem native has averaged 10.4 points, eight rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 67 games this season. He’ll jump against Mitchell Robinson, who has averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in seven games versus Big Mo.
Only four games left, but who’s counting? A four-game win streak would bring the Knicks’ final record to 38-44, which is still ugly, but less so, like your date after a few drinks.
With all the Magic starters banged up, the Knicks should win this in a walk. But, ya know, Terrence Ross. Plus, it’s the second of a back-to-back, and the Knicks are short-handed, too, with Quentin Grimes, Deuce McBride, and Randle out. Hence, not such a walk after all. DraftKings has the Knicks favored by 5 points at the time of posting. Seems like a lot, given their history. Prediction: Knicks by four in an ugly game with lots of angry Thibs hysterics and an RJ thirty-piece.
Amway Center. Sunday. 6:00 p.m. EST. Abracadabra, Knicks!
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