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Game Preview: New York Knicks vs Orlando Magic, January 15, 2024

MLK Day matinee showdown: Knicks aim to avenge December loss to Magic.

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic (21-18) will face the New York Knicks (23-16) today in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. Orlando defeated the Knicks back in December, 117-108, thanks to 32 points scored by Franz Wagner, and 11 rebounds from his brother Mo. Julius Randle topped New York with 38 points.

After starting out as the precocious darlings of the Eastern Conference, the Magic have stumbled back to earth a bit. They still rank second for defense and steals per game, but have lost six of their last eight games. What’s more, this afternoon they will be without the services of two rotational starters, Gary Harris and the aforementioned Franz. Wendell Carter, Jr. is a game-time decision, too.

The Disneys lost in Oklahoma City on Saturday, 112-100. Their starters for that game included Chuma Okeke, 6’6”, 229 lbs, at small forward. In limited minutes this season, the 25-year-old Chuma Okeke has averaged 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds. Fellow wing Caleb Houstan also made the starting five and has averaged 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 30 games this season. One would assume they’d be easy-pickings for the Knicks, but then again, a decimated Grizzlies team gave our heroes an honest challenge on Saturday. Committing 22 turnovers didn’t do New York any favors in that one, and another sloppy game today would be worrisome.

In his third season, the promise of guard Jalen Suggs seems to be coming true at last. The fifth pick in the 2021 draft has averaged 13.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 35 games this season. He has improved his defensive play, too, snatching 1.4 steals and deflecting 3.2 balls per contest. He and Donte DiVincenzo are essentially the same size and should make each other sweat a bit today.

Power Forward Paolo Banchero has averaged 21.8 points, seven rebounds and 3.8 assists in four career games against the Knicks. Last season’s Rookie of the Year continues to impress in pinstripes, and his big frame pairs up evenly with Julius Randle. This will be the matchup to watch today, and Thibs might periodically try to contain Paolo with OG Anunoby’s chesty, pesky defense.

Center Goga Bitadze has averaged 7.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and about 21 minutes over 35 games this season. He holds the league’s third-best defensive rating (106.5) and ranks in the top seven for offensive rebounding percentage and block percentage. During a recent vacation, I took my kids to a Magic game and my sixteen-year old left with the fervent conviction that Goga belongs on the Knicks. I doubt Orlando would part with the 24-year-old, of course.

Prediction

The Knicks should have an easy assignment today. Jalen Brunson is a game-time decision, still nursing a sore calf, but Deuce McBride has proven to be capable of filling in when needed. Let JB rest! The short-short-handed Grizzlies gave New York a challenge for most of Saturday’s game, and before that the Luka-less Mavs broke their five-game win streak. A nice, decisive victory is just what the doctor ordered today. Knicks by +14.

Speaking of doctors . . . please take a moment to appreciate Martin today. If you haven’t watched this in awhile—or even if you have—revisit this. It’s always worth your time.

Game Details

Who: New York Knicks vs Orlando Magic

When: 3:00 pm EST, Monday, January 15, 2024

Where: Madison Square Garden, NYC

Watch: MSG

Follow: @ptknicksblog