The New York Knicks are coming off an impressive victory over the Indiana Pacers, holding them to just 84 points. The team needed a resilient defensive game, holding Indiana to 21.6% shooting from three-point land. Their perimeter defense was far more aggressive and efficient, as the second team once again took hold and provided a strong performance.
Next on the docket is the Orlando Magic, who have been struggling considerably this season, losing five of their last six games. They are one of the worst defensive teams in basketball, giving up 129 points to the Atlanta Hawks in their most recent game.
Three keys for the Knicks to defeat a struggling Magic team:
1.) RJ Barrett bounce-back game
If there was ever a game for RJ Barrett to bounce back, it would be this one against Orlando. Barrett hit a few ice-cold three-point shots against Indiana, but he still only shot 30.8% from the field. While he connected on 43% of his three-point attempts, he needs to be more efficient around the rim and finish his layups.
RJ has scored double-digit points just twice in the last five games, portraying a bit of inconsistency. Against Orlando, the Knicks need to highlight him as their primary scorer, getting him back on track and building a bit of confidence as they look ahead to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls over the weekend.
2.) Immanuel Quickley’s production
One of the catalysts for the Knicks lately has been Immanuel Quickley, who has not only shown improved defense but elite shooting. While his regular-season stats donâ€™t reflect the past few games, he has recorded a low of 40% from three-point range and high of 100% against Indiana in the win. He has scored double-digit points in four of his last five games, recording a high of 18 against Milwaukee last Wednesday.
If Quickley continues to develop at this speed, he may start to eat minutes from other players, notably Kemba Walker. Tom Thibodeau is loving Quick’s impact off the bench, and pairing him with Derrick Rose has been a godsend with the starters currently struggling to keep pace.
3.) Taj Gibson holding down the boards
While Thibodeau indicated that Mitchell Robinson’s sore left ankle isnâ€™t anything serious, it is possible they rest him for one game against a weak Orlando squad. In that scenario, we should expect to see plenty of Taj Gibson, who showed resilient defense and awesome energy against Indiana.
Gibson finished the contest with eight rebounds, three assists, and a +22 +/- over 29 minutes. His veteran leadership has been a huge benefit for the Knicks, which is why they offered him a two-year deal this off-season with an out after the 2021â€“22 campaign.
If Nerlens Noel and Robinson fail to make a come-back in the coming days, Thibs is confident that Gibson can hold down the fort in the meantime.