3 keys for the Knicks to defeat struggling Magic team

rj barrett, knicks

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 don’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 isn’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 2021–22 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.

3 keys for the Knicks to beat the Indiana Pacers | Physicality is key

new york knicks, rj barrett

The Knicks are coming off an unfortunate loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday evening, but they will look to bounce back against the Indiana Pacers, who just gained back Caris LeVert at shooting guard in their most recent win over the San Antonio Spurs. LeVert provided a jolt of offensive production, scoring 16 points and recording seven assists, a healthy contribution.

The Knicks have a more significant challenge ahead than expected, as the Pacers started the year 1–5 before their most recent win. They lost the previous four games consecutively, dropping to the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Toronto Raptors twice.

Utilizing a high effort mentality, the Knicks can quickly get back on the right track without missing a beat, and considering both of their losses have been at home, they might have a slight advantage away in Indiana on Wednesday night.

Three keys for the Knicks to overcome Pacers:

1.) Physical interior play to limit Turner and Sabonis

One of the best young players this season is center Myles Turner, who contributed 19 points in the Pacers’ win over San Antonio. On the year, he’s averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and a shooting 53.6% from the field and 32.4% from three-point range.

In fact, Turner may end up being a trade target for the Knicks at the deadline this year, depending on the state of their team, but stifling his efforts and limiting his physical impact will be a key in winning this contest. Of course, the Knicks have to keep a close eye on Domantas Sabonis and his 21.3 points per game.

Sabonis is having himself another fantastic year, contributing 1.8 steals and 11.4 rebounds per game, shooting 60% from the field. Having a physical presence is essential for New York in this contest, so expect to see plenty of Mitchell Robinson in the paint.

2.) Guard the perimeter

One elevated statistic the Pacers enjoyed against the Spurs was a 47.4% three-point rate. They connected on 18–of–38 points from range, so guarding the perimeter for the Knicks will also be essential.

On the season, the Pacers currently rank 10th in three-point percentage at 35.6% and 12th in attempts, heaving up 36.9 per game. The Knicks have a healthy advantage in that category, but they are susceptible to bad defense at times, so they must close down shooting opportunities quickly.

3.) Focus on elite defense, let the offense come naturally

At times, the Knicks have tried to outscore their opponents, which ends up hurting their overall identity and game plan. Head coach Tom Thibodeau relies on elite defense to give his team an advantage, and that is why they enjoyed such a successful run in 2020. Focusing on that portion of their game will contribute to better offensive opportunities, demoralizing their opponent.

So far this season, the Knicks rank 22nd in defensive rating, 25th in steals, and 7th in blocks. Another disappointing stat is their points allowed on fast brakes, giving up 15.1, good for 25th in the league. Their interior defense has been solid, with Robinson playing more minutes, ranking 4th in opponent’s points in the paint.

The Knicks have unfortunately been susceptible to transition scoring, which indicates a lack of hustle anaphora times. That is something RJ Barrett hinted at after the loss to Toronto.

Nonetheless, getting back to their routes and playing quality defense will help them offensively as well, giving them more momentum.