The New York Knicks entered the week ranked as one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams, but that designation might be changing.
New York looks to take another step forward Wednesday against the visiting Orlando Magic, who have dropped three straight games and five of six.
The Knicks offered a glimpse of their defensive potential in Monday’s 92-84 victory over Indiana, outscoring the Pacers in the fourth quarter 23-10.
“I liked the energy from the team on both sides of the ball,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought we played really hard defensively, and offensively there was great movement and great pace. We play like that, we’ll have a great chance to win.”
Immanuel Quickley and Kemba Walker scored 16 points apiece for the Knicks, who ended a two-game skid.
Forward Julius Randle is averaging 20.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, but he has scored a mere total of 37 points in his last three games while shooting 33.3 percent from the field.
New York may need to start veteran Taj Gibson at center against Orlando after Mitchell Robinson exited Monday’s contest with a sore left ankle. Backup Nerlens Noel has missed the last three games due to a sprained right knee.
Gibson has been a key part of the Knicks’ bench, which has outshined the team’s starting lineup on most nights. Derrick Rose, Alec Burks and Obi Toppin have joined Quickley and Gibson to become one of the league’s top second units.
Quickley missed 22 of his first 28 3-pointers this season but has made 15 of his last 28 shots from beyond the arc. His teammates have been impressed by the second-year guard’s development.
“He has the demeanor of a 10-year veteran,” Gibson said. “You can tell by the way that he comes into practice every day. He just is built for the NBA. We get frustrated when he doesn’t shoot the big shot and that is how much we believe in him.”
Orlando began a five-game, seven-day road trip on Monday.
Guard Cole Anthony is averaging 20.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists to lead the Magic. Anthony recorded his third double-double of the season with 29 points and 11 assists in Monday’s 129-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Magic have lost 11 of their first 14 games but turned in an encouraging outing against Atlanta, leading for most of the first half.
“We’re a young team that won’t take anything from anybody,” Orlando center Mo Bamba said. “We just want to be a smash-mouth team, making winning plays for not only themselves, but for each other. It’s truly a domino effect.”
Orlando rookie guard Jalen Suggs sat out Monday’s game with a high-ankle sprain and is listed as day-to-day. Suggs is averaging 11.3 points in 28.1 minutes per game.
Veteran Gary Harris started in place of Suggs on Monday and scored eight points in 30 minutes.
Orlando, which defeated the Knicks 110-104 at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 24, ranks 28th in the league in scoring at 99.9 points per game.
Rookie forward Franz Wagner has been one of the team’s bright spots, averaging 13.4 points while shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range.
–Field Level Media