The Magic are favored by 2.5 points despite being on the road.
We are currently in rarified air. The Knicks, yes those Knicks, are heading into a home game against the Orlando Magic riding a two-game win streak. More importantly, the Knicks have been victorious in three of their last five games. They now sit alone as the fourth worst team in the NBA with a 15-36 record. It is almost guaranteed that the Knicks will surpass their win total from last season when they went an NBA-worst 17-65. It looks like the Knicks are handling this rebuild pretty well for the time being.
The Orlando Magic come to town as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 22-29 record. The Magic are looking to continue to put distance between themselves and the ninth seeded Chicago Bulls. That shouldn’t be much of a problem though since Orlando currently holds a 3.5 game lead over the Bulls. Regardless, the Magic would probably want to avoid playing the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, so a win here could go a long way in catching up with the seventh seeded Brooklyn Nets and avoiding the NBA’s best team in the postseason.
After starting the season off on a good note, the Magic have been struggling as of late. Halfway through January, Orlando looked to be headed in the right direction with a 20-21 record. However, things have not gone their way recently. Since January 15th, the Magic are 2-8 in their last ten games, positioning them as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. A win tonight against the lowly Knicks could certainly be the shock to the system that Orlando needs to get back on track for a potential postseason run. Furthermore, it only makes sense that a potential playoff team would hope to avoid a stretch of games where they go 1-8.
There are a number of things that Orlando does well. You can’t talk about the Magic without first discussing defense. Orlando is currently allowing opponents to score 104.8 points per game. That means that they have the best scoring defense in the entire NBA! Furthermore, Orlando has been flustering their opponents when they try and get anything going. The Magic are currently ranked fifth in the NBA in both steals per game and blocks per game. Defense is clearly the Magic’s strong-suit. However, offense has been a clear problem for Orlando. They may have the number one defense in the NBA, but they also have one of the worst offenses in the league. Orlando’s 103.3 points per game, is second to last in the NBA, ahead of only the Charlotte Hornets. When you consider the fact that the Knicks have the third worst scoring offense in the NBA though, it becomes pretty clear that this matchup favors the Magic.
I simply don’t have faith in the Knicks to win this game. New York will once again have to play without RJ Barrett, who is the team’s third leading scorer. Julius Randle and Marcus Morris Sr. will do their parts and put up points, but I don’t think the Knicks have enough scoring beyond those two guys to beat the best defense in the NBA. Furthermore, the Magic have seven different players that are averaging at least ten points per game. That dwarfs the Knicks’ three double-digit scorers. And unlike the Magic, the Knicks have a pedestrian defense that is allowing opponents to score over 111 points per game. Defense will win this game for the Magic and help them cover the 2.5 point spread.