Magic Unable to Slow Down Knicks in Home Opener

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

All five Magic starters scored in double figures, including rookie Franz Wagner who finished with a team-high 16 points in his regular season Amway Center debut, but Orlando struggled to slow down the New York Knicks in a 121-96 loss.

Key Stats

Kemba Walker, a Magic killer over the years, drilled three triples in the first five minutes of the game. That set the tone for what turned out to be a superb shooting night for the Knicks, who knocked down a franchise-record 24 3-pointers. New York’s bench also did a number on Orlando, totaling 58 points.

Rookie Watch

Wagner, who in addition to his 16 points grabbed four rebounds, has been efficient through two games. On Wednesday in San Antonio, the German forward went 6-of-9 from the field. Against New York, he shot 6-of-12, including 4-of-5 from downtown. Jalen Suggs, meanwhile, filled up the stat sheet despite going 4-of-17 from the floor with 14 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

Top Performer

Spacing the floor and blocking shots are what Mo Bamba does best, and through two games, he has excelled in both those areas. Against the Knicks, as part of his 15-point, 10-rebound performance, the 7-foot center sank three 3-pointers and swatted away two shots. He led the NBA in blocks during the preseason.

Injury Report

Out for the Magic were Gary Harris (hamstring tightness), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise). For the Knicks, Taj Gibson (personal reasons), Nerlens Noel (sore left knee) and Luka Samanic (G League; two-way) were unavailable.

Rivals Report

The big surprise of the 2020-21 season, the Knicks have high hopes of making more strides this year, especially after adding Walker and Evan Fournier in the offseason. For them to have a chance of advancing deep into the playoffs, though, the team’s youngsters – notably RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley – will have to show signs of growth. Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke where he was teammates with Zion Williamson, has gotten off to a solid start this season, scoring 19 points in New York’s opening-night double-overtime win over Boston and playing stifling defense in Orlando.

Quote of the Night

“I think that when we talk all these things about culture and who we want to be, whether if it’s now or down the road, I think that definitely helps towards it and helps build that identity of hardnose basketball that we are trying to build here in Orlando.” – Bamba on team being resilient and playing with spirit even after falling behind in games.

This Day in History

On Oct. 22, 2018, the Magic defeated the Celtics in Boston behind 24 points and 12 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic and 18 points and 12 rebounds from Isaac. Fournier, then a member of the Magic, had 14 points and a career-high 10 assists. The 6-foot-6 Frenchman signed with the Knicks after finishing last season with the Celtics, who acquired him from Orlando at the trade deadline.

Up Next

A rematch between the Magic and Knicks will take place on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. This is the first of five times this season in which Orlando will play the same opponent in back-to-back games. Three of those sets will be played in the same city. The Magic play two games in Milwaukee in mid-November, host the Bucks for two straight in late December and welcome the Pacers to town for consecutive contests in late February/early March. The other time this year the Magic will play the same opponent in each other’s building is in January against the Wizards.

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