Knicks vs. Magic Odds
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It’s seemed like an inevitability that the Knicks would make the playoffs for the better part of a month now, but with a couple of recent losses they’re right back in a fight to stay out of the NBA Play-In tournament. With eight games remaining, they are just two games clear of the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat, who sit sixth and seventh in the East, respectively.
Could the Orlando Magic play spoilers here? They’ve looked good over the last few games and will catch their opponents on the second night of a back-to-back. Let’s preview Knicks vs. Magic and make some predictions.
The predicament I laid out above is largely due to the fact that less than 24 hours ago the Knicks suffered a tough defeat on the road in Miami. It opened the door for the Heat and/or Nets to potentially leapfrog them in the standings down the stretch, though it would still require some sustained losing from New York to make that happen.
Still, the Knicks would love to lock this playoff spot up sooner rather than later. That’s why this two-game slide hurts; not only has it come at a poor time, but they were in both games and fell by a combined 13 points. New York wasted a 57-point showing from Julius Randle on Monday against the Timberwolves and then a solid showing from its role players on Wednesday.
Though the Knicks have dropped two straight on the road, they’re still a menacing 24-13 against the spread in these games and 8-2 ATS as the road favorite. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Knicks are 7-4 straight up and 6-3-2 ATS.
In theory, it’s a great spot for the Knicks. The spot gets even better when you consider the team should be completely healthy (injury reports take a while on a back-to-back) and given they’ve handled Orlando in their two meetings.
The Knicks did play a sloppy first half in Orlando back in February only to out-score the Magic by 12 in the second half and win by four. They were schooled down low with Orlando out-scoring them 48-36 in the paint, but that came without their rim protector. Things should be different now with Mitchell Robinson back in the lineup.
The Magic have been almost exactly league average of late, which is a huge step forward for this young team. Though they’re 13th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference, they rank 18th in Net Rating over the last 10 games with a pretty palatable Defensive Rating of 115.7.
Most impressive of all, though, would be the current six-game run their on. They’ve defeated the Heat and Clippers and covered the spread against the Suns and Lakers. Orlando is now 5-1 ATS over this stretch and has covered in four straight.
So, where have the Magic excelled in this six-game stretch?
Well, they’re seventh in rebounding rate and eighth defensively. While they’ve been one of the best in the league against 3s this season, ranking ninth in defended field goal percentage at 35.3%, that number has grown to nearly 38% over this stretch and put them towards the bottom of the league. They’ve actually made their mark inside, defending shots at a 62.3% clip despite ranking fourth-worst inside of six feet for the year at 66.9%.
The Magic are playing some inspired basketball right now, giving fans a reason to care next season and putting some of the teams around the league “on notice,” as Franz Wagner put it.
Still, this is firmly a Knicks spot. Not only have they crushed this season on the road, but they’re now 24-11-2 ATS on the second night of a back-to-back since the start of the 2020-21 season and 22-11 ATS as road favorites.
On top of this, the Knicks have proven to be a much better team than the Magic for six of the eight quarters they’ve played. It’s hard for me to put a lot of stock into a tight game last time out given the absence of Robinson, and with him back in the fold this fun young front court including Wagner and Rookie of the Year favorite Paolo Banchero should be a bit limited.
The biggest thing here, though, is that the Knicks are among the most 3-point happy teams in the NBA and the Magic have proven time and time again that they’re inept at defending this shot. I think a Knicks offense that had been cruising up until this recent two-game losing streak will get back on track.
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