Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks: Game Preview

Terrence Ross
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic take the floor for the first time since returning from their West Coast trip when they host the New York Knicks on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

Shorthanded and playing stints of their trip without a healthy true point guard on their roster, the Magic are hoping to have additional bodies on hand as they prepare for their upcoming homestand.

The team waived Frank Mason III on Monday and added point guard Chasson Randle, who will be asked to lead the second unit.

“First of all, (he brings) range shooting,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said. “And then the second piece, as I was told, ‘solid as a rock.’ A guy who is going to understand offense, understand defense, you’re going to execute when he’s on the floor, and you can tell (on Tuesday) even though he just got here, verbal, asking a lot of questions.”

Prior to joining the Magic, Randle appeared in two games this season with the NBA G League’s Oklahoma City Blue, averaging 20.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 26.3 minutes per game.

“I’m extremely excited to be placed in this position,” Randle explained. “To have an opportunity to come in and play and try and help the team in any way that I can. I’m grateful for the opportunity. Coming from the G League, guys dream about opportunities like this. So, I hope to take full advantage of it, for sure.”

After having Monday off, the team spent Tuesday going through a non-contact practice and utilized some of the session to get Randle up to speed. The 6-foot-2 floor general spent additional time with assistant coach Steve Hetzel, who helped guide the Stanford alum through Orlando’s various sets.

“Really, I just wanted to get acclimated with some of the terminology that’s used here and some of the actions both offensively and defensively,” Randle said. “It was a lot to take in at one time, but I’m up for the challenge and the coaching staff as well as my teammates, they’ve done a great job of helping bring me along so far.”

KEY STAT: In a strange twist of fate, Randle spent time with both the Knicks and their G League affiliate in Westchester to finish out the 2016-17 season. His first two games that he appeared in with the Knicks were actually against the Magic at Amway Center – New York played Orlando on March 1 and March 6 that season. Now, Randle will take the floor for the first time as a member of the Magic against one of his former squads.

“To be able to have the opportunity to play against the Knicks, which is a historic franchise and my former team, it’ll be a lot of fun,” Randle said. “It will bring back memories and I’m looking forward to seeing some of those guys.”

INJURY UPDATE: Unfortunately, while the Magic added Randle and welcomed the return of Michael Carter-Williams two games ago, the team announced that they will be without rookie point guard Cole Anthony for the near future.

A comprehensive work up was performed on Anthony over the course of the week. His shoulder, neck, and brachial plexus MRIs were all negative. With a chest X-ray showing questionable rib involvement, a CT scan was performed to confirm a right first rib, non-displaced fracture. He will not return before the All-Star break. Anthony suffered the injury on Feb. 9 in Portland.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Fournier will return as long as there are no setbacks in warm ups, Clifford said. Aaron Gordon (left ankle sprain), James Ennis III (right groin strain), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) will be out. Karim Mane (G League/two-way) is not available.

For the Knicks, Mitchell Robinson (right hand surgery) is out, while Ignas Brazdeikis and Jared Harper are on G League assignment.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “They’re a pretty talented team from top to bottom. They’ve got a good starting five, they’ve got good guys coming in off the bench. They just added (Derrick) Rose. Julius Randle is playing like an All-Star. So, they definitely have a good squad. For us to win, we just have to play Magic basketball. We have to play hard on defense, we have to get stops, and we have to run the floor. Obviously, we have some mismatches we like as well, but they’re a very talented, good team.” – Carter-Williams on tonight’s matchup with the Knicks.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by New York Knicks beat writer Stefan Bondy, who covers the team for the New York Daily News. He was kind enough to take the time and provide his insight on the Knicks.

Savage: “What kind of season has Julius Randle had for the Knicks and what have been some of the things that have stood out about his play?”

Bondy: “Just to rewind a little bit, he was coming off a pretty disappointing season last season, which was his first as kind of the headliner Knick. After the big free agency failure (in 2019), he was kind of the consolation prize. So, there was some pressure on him to perform and he didn’t do as well as he would have liked. Then, the Knicks weren’t part of the Orlando bubble, so they had a lot of time off there. He used it productively. He got in shape – he was in shape, but he got in better shape. He worked on his game and he came back a completely different player. They’ve been giving him the ball and he’s basically been running point forward in some instances, but not all the time. He’s shown a knack for not only getting into the paint and scoring, which has always been his bread and butter, but also making the right reads with his passes. Also, last game, he hit a career high in three-point shots. So, he’s shown a big-time range this season with his offense that we certainly didn’t see last season. Defensively, he’s also picking up some of the slack and he’s playing more than anybody in the league right now. He leads the league in minutes. So, he’s available and he’s playing well.”

Savage: “Magic fans got their first look at Immanuel Quickley in their matchup earlier this season, now he’s got a backcourt running mate in Derrick Rose. What have you seen from Rose so far and how have those two meshed together?”

Bondy: “There was some concern when they first traded for Rose because fans were worried that this guy is going to take minutes away from their upstart rookie. As it turned out, they play well together. They actually almost exclusively play together. They come into the game at the same time. They go to the scorer’s table at the same time and check in together. Rose has actually helped his game. What Rose has done with the second unit is he’s picked up the pace. The Knicks play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA, they might be the slowest pace in the NBA, which also accounts for why their points against average is number one in the NBA. What Rose has done is he’s picked up the pace with that second unit and it’s given the second unit an identity. That’s helped out Quickley because that’s his style. He’s able to score in transition. And not only has it helped Quickley, but it’s also helped Obi Toppin. He was struggling before Derrick Rose got here, but now with that second unit, it’s his nature – and we saw it in Dayton – to run and gun and score in transition. So, Obi Toppin, even more so than Immanuel Quickley has been helped out by Derrick Rose.”

Savage: “If you’re the Orlando Magic, what are some of the areas you try to exploit against this New York Knicks team?”

Bondy: “I still don’t think they’re a very good three-point shooting team. Sometimes they’re streaky like every other team, but naturally, I don’t think they’re a very good three-point shooting team. What teams were successful with earlier in the season was playing in a zone and forcing them to shoot. If the Orlando Magic can keep them on the perimeter, keep the points in the paint down, and force them to take three-point shots, that’s something the Orlando Magic should try to live with. There are nights where they can hit them all. Alec Burks can catch fire, Reggie Bullock can catch fire, but more often than not, they’re not going to be a good three-point shooting team. If I were the Orlando Magic, I would try and get them into that game.”


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