Orlando Magic (1-1) at New York Knicks (1-2) Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 P.M.
Following weekend losses to Boston and Portland, the heavy hitters just keep coming as the Knicks face Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and the powerhouse Orlando Magic at the Garden tonight. To make matters potentially worse for the 'bockers, Orlando is coming off a stinging 96-70 rout in Miami. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, in typical VG fashion, was not pleased with his team's outing in South Beach and I'd have to assume that the players themselves were pretty angry after losing Round 1 of the Squabl for the Sunshine State.
Having swept three games with ease from New York last season, Orlando has to be looking to get well tonight. Vegas has them as 7 point favorites with the over/under at 202. If the Magic cover that spread then I actually have a hard time seeing the game hitting that over. Even when getting blown out by the Heat, they still didn't let up 100 points. I guess that Vegas is looking at the Magic's 112-83 win over Washington in their opener and assuming that the Knicks are good for a few more buckets than the Wiz (while being just as pliant defensively). Perhaps.
With impressive effort in the Knicks' first three games yielding lackluster results I'm keen to see how the ballclub comes out tonight. Has their confidence been shaken or are they also going to come out with a chip on their shoulder because they feel that they had one stolen from them at home by Portland? Hmmm....
Things to Look For: -Can Danilo Gallinari break out of his slump? How much leash does D'Antoni give him? -Can the Moz inch his career point total closer to his career foul total? Or, does Dwight Howard have him fouled out before the first TV timeout? -How does D'Antoni account for Howard? And, after Moz is tethered to the bench with fouls? -How does Stan Van Gundy account for Amar'e? -How and when does Amar'e assert himself in this game? Will he play more than 36 minutes f necessary? -How is the crowd's intensity? It's a midweek game following the home opener. The crowd was TNT on Saturday night, chanting DEEEE-FENSE from the first possession.
In what I aim to be a season-long habit, I've been trading emails today with a blogger who covers the Knicks' opponent. Below you'll find a back-and-forth with Brian Serra, a contributing blogger at Howard the Dunk and the founder of MagicBasketballOnline.com. He's on the Twitter and the Facebook if you're into it.
WWOD?: How does it feel for Florida to be the center of the basketball universe? What, if anything, did you take away from the first Heat-Magic clash?
HtD: Honestly, I think those of us in Orlando enjoyed it quite a bit more when all we had to worry about from Miami was if Wade was going to drop 50 on us or not. However, there is no denying that the fans of both franchises are now talking a lot more smack back and forth than I have ever previously seen.
The first Heat-Magic game last Friday was obviously a disappointment to the Orlando fans and it showed that our undefeated preseason was truly meaningless and that the team is not as far long as we all thought.
WWOD?: Aside from health, what specific factor will determine how far this Magic team goes?
HtD: The team MUST get physically and emotionally stronger. When you get slapped, how do you respond? This was the biggest problem heading into the offseason last year and while everyone seemed to be talking the talk about it being improved, it clearly hasn’t. Unfortunately, this team is riding heavily on Vince Carter right now and his rollercoaster play will likely determine if the Magic are able to return to the Finals or if they head home in the second round.
WWOD?: What is your favorite part of rooting for a team coached by a Van Gundy brother? Least favorite?
HtD: The favorite has to be the Van Gundy mannerisms. He gives great quotes all the time and you love his passion. The thing that seems to wear on fans, and sometimes the players, the most is the constant yelling and screaming. Although I do think he is becoming a little more mild-mannered as he has figured out the players distinct personalities and how far he can/can not push people.
WWOD?: During the second half of his career, Patrick Ewing excelled on offense largely because of his soft touch from midrange and the baseline, do you think that Dwight Howard can develop that shot under Ewing's tutelage? What parts of Howard's offensive game do you expect to develop as he matures?
HtD: Dwight has already begun showing his ability this season to knock down face-up jumpers and is taking them with increased confidence and making us think that we might need to change the name of the site to HowardtheDuncan. The shots he is making and taking now aren’t new to him either. They are things he has worked very hard on in practice and just lacked the confidence to expand them into his regular game. Dwight spent some time this offseason in Houston working with Hakeem Olajuwon and he’s said the biggest take away for him was being 100% confident in the shots he is taking. With Ewing, for whatever reason, he never developed that. However, there is no denying that Patrick has contributed over the last few years to Dwight’s tremendous growth both offensively and defensively.
WWOD?: What unheralded player in your rotation should a Knicks fan keep an eye out for when watching the Magic tonight?
HtD: You mean Knicks fans didn’t buy tickets to tonight’s game to see the return of Chris Duhon?? Duhon aside, the Magic have a very deep bench. J.J. Redick is probably someone the Knicks should keep an eye on as he is the player now that Knicks fans will be praying Andy Rautins turns into in 5 years. When he first came into the league, Redick was slow and undersized. J.J. worked hard every year to turn into a scrappy and versatile player and of course always has the ability to shoot the ball. If Rautins is going to be an NBA success story, he should be studying the history of J.J. Redick.