Knicks vs Magic: MSG 7pm
The Knicks are making a quick road trip down to Orlando. It should be an emotional one for Amar’e Stoudemire who is back in the city where his brother Hazell grew up and passed away just last year. Hazell would have turned 34 years old on Friday, January 4th. In honor of Hazell, STAT is inviting 30 kids from his hometown of Lake Wales, Florida to attend the game. STAT looked much better in the win over the Blazers on Thursday night. He looked more confident and disciplined defensively. He also missed several open shots in both of his games. This makes me feel that it’s just a matter of time before he starts hitting those shots again. STAT mentioned he is sitting on the plane with Coach Woodson getting additional film study sessions on defense and that it is helping him tremendously.
This could be a trap game for the Knicks as Orlando is not the greatest team record wise (12-20), but they are well coached with first year coach Jacque Vaughn and they have upset several teams this year, with terrific off the ball movement and rebounding. The Knicks must be prepared to see a variety of back door cuts and multiple screening. Communication and sticking to their man will be paramount. If the Knicks come out focused it should be no problem, but this is a huge test to see if the Knicks are back to their defensive focus from the first ten games of the season. I think they have learned from their recent 10 game defensive lull and they will come out ready to play.
The Magic have several difficult players to defend starting with Jameer Nelson and JJ Redick. They are both exceptional shooters and outstanding with cutting without the ball and running pick and roll. Second year man Nikola Vucevic is averaging a double double of 11 ppg and 10.5 rpg. He has shown the ability to hit the mid range shot and finish strong down low off of ball movement. Aaron Afflalo is their leading scorer and best perimeter defender so I expect to see him matched up on Carmelo. Orlando plays at the second slowest pace in the league, which should help the Knicks as they also play very efficiently at a slow pace. The Magic are 14th in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Coach Woodson will once again start Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby, with Anthony, Brewer, and Kidd. STAT will be on a minute restriction of 20 minutes as well. I love the duo of Tyson and Camby. The Knicks out rebounded San Antonio 48-35, and stopped their points in the paint with this lineup and I expect more of the same. I also like how Coach is staying with Brewer to keep his confidence high and he has improved from it. Brewer is pretty solid from the far corner threes and not very good shooting from anywhere else. Brewer made two three pointers in the last game from that spot on the floor and it looks like an area of focus for him to set up their offensively, as it also allows him to work cuts along the baseline. We will need Brewer to play well at least until Shumpert returns in late January.
Pablo Prigioni was outstanding against the Spurs with 9 assists, 3 steals and no turnovers and he is getting better in every game. It was great to see Novak back, going 5-7 from downtown. JR Smith is definitely a top two sixth man of the year candidate. The bench is back! I expect the Knicks to come out with a professional mindset with the focus of taking care of business from the beginning. The Knicks are unbeatable if they come out and hold their opponents to under 25 points in the first quarter as it sets the tone for the rest of the evening. If the Knicks do that, it should be another victory for the #Knickstape, more importantly they will jump back into a tie with the Miami Heat for the top seed in the East.