Knicks: Taj Gibson returns, Nerlens Noel doubtful to play vs Magic

Taj Gibson is expected to make his season debut for the New York Knicks Sunday night against the Orlando Magic.

Gibson missed the Knicks’ first two games after becoming a first-time father last Friday. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel remains doubtful to play against the Magic. Noel has been nursing knee soreness though coach Tom Thibodeau hinted that he’s near to returning to the active lineup.

But even without their top two backup centers, the Knicks were too much for the rebuilding Magic. The Knicks set a franchise-record 24 three-pointers in a 121-96 victory over the Magic for their first 2-0 start in nine years.

“This is a very good Knicks basketball team. A very tough, physical basketball team,” Magic’s rookie coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s embarrassing loss to the Knicks. “We got spread out a little bit too much… because (the Knicks) spread the floor so well. We talked about the guys that they have that are individually very talented. And they were, early on, were making the extra pass and knocking down shots.”

The Knicks’ offense had been juiced up by the addition of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier and their small-ball lineup during non-Mitchell Robinson minutes.

It will be interesting to watch how Thibodeau will balance his rotation once Gibson and Noel return.

Julius Randle and the much-improved sophomore Obi Toppin have played together for 23 minutes during the Knicks’ impressive 2-0 start. The Randle-Toppin lineups have outscored their opponents by 21.

Robinson has also been stellar since his return from a foot injury. The 23-year old center averages 8.5 points on a staggering 80 percent shooting from the field, 13 rebounds, 1.5 assists, one block in 31.5 minutes.

Against the Magic, the third-youngest team in the league whose roster’s average age is 24.7 years, there is no rush to bring back Noel.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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