After overcoming a 20-point deficit to win a game for the first time this season, the New York Knicks will try to carry the momentum into Tuesday’s matchup against the host Orlando Magic.
The Knicks’ roller-coaster season hit a new peak over the weekend. One night after losing 134-128 in overtime to the Los Angeles Clippers, New York rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 on Sunday.
Julius Randle had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the victory, while Jalen Brunson added 21 points. The Knicks also received a welcome boost from reserves Evan Fournier (17 points), Miles McBride (14 points) and Isaiah Hartenstein (14 rebounds).
“For us to come back today and compete and win the game, it says a lot about the character of our team,” Randle said. “It was a big win.”
New York has struggled defensively since center Mitchell Robinson fractured his right thumb 10 games ago but held the Sixers to 18 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Much of the blame for the Knicks’ defensive woes has been placed on fourth-year pro RJ Barrett, but coach Tom Thibodeau pushed back on that notion.
“The way it works, defensively, it’s five guys working together, and the people that are tracking things, there’s no context to it,” Thibodeau said. “You don’t know whose responsibility it is to switch, you don’t know whose responsibility it is to show, you don’t know if there is a responsibility to stay down. You don’t know any of that.”
Barrett sat out Sunday against Philadelphia due to a non-COVID illness but could return to face an improving Orlando squad.
The Magic concluded a four-game road trip with a 3-1 mark after defeating the Charlotte Hornets 119-113 on Sunday. Paolo Banchero had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the victory, while Wendell Carter Jr. added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Orlando has gone 17-12 since Dec. 7, when they were 5-20. The recent road trip included impressive wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It shows our resilience and that we can go out and compete with some of the best teams in the league,” Carter said.
After starting the season by losing 11 of its first 12 road games, the Magic have gone 8-8 away from Orlando.
“We played some tough opponents in different circumstances that we found ourselves in and our guys are resilient enough to bounce back and continue to play the right way,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Play for each other and hang our hats on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Magic are looking to avenge a 115-102 loss to the Knicks on Oct. 24. Randle scored 25 points for the Knicks in the victory.
Orlando will be without centre Mo Bamba, who is serving a four-game suspension following an altercation during the game at Minnesota on Friday.
The Magic boast a promising young core led by Banchero, who is averaging a team-high 20.3 points. The 6-foot-10 forward leads all NBA rookies in scoring and minutes played.
Orlando guard Markelle Fultz has also been a consistent scoring threat, averaging 16.3 points on 61.8 per cent shooting over his last three games.