The Orlando Magic have lost four games in a row and have fallen in the standings to 5th in the East at 32-22. Second leading scorer PF Ryan Anderson (sprained right ankle) has already been ruled out of tonight’s contest against the New York Knicks, and All-NBA C Dwight Howard (back spasms) and PG Jameer Nelson (sore left calf) will be game time decisions.
For the proverbial cherry on top of this bad news sundae, head coach Stan Van Gundy announced to news reporters today around noon that his sources within Magic management confirmed the speculation that the 3X reigning Defensive Player of the Year Howard wants Van Gundy fired.
Into this central Florida swirl of injury and uncertainty come the East’s current 8th-seed New York Knicks at 27-27. The Knicks know a little something about key players getting hurt and exiting coaches. Former NY head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned on March 14th as his squad was mired in a six game swoon and his players began shutting him out.
New head coach Mike Woodson has gone 9-3 since he took over, but the Knicks have dropped 2 of their last 3. They’ve also lost starting PG Jeremy Lin for the remainder of the year, and starting PF Amare Stoudemire will be out for at least another week with a bad back.
New York last played on Tuesday at Indiana where they were outscored 40-17 in the fourth quarter and lost 112-104. The Knicks only real go-to guy now is Carmelo Anthony, who drained a season-high 39 in the defeat. With the loss, Spike Lee’s guys are a weak 9-17 away from MSG. In addition, new starting lead guard Baron Davis is playing with a troublesome pulled left hamstring and appears to be ailing and ineffectual.
Orlando last played and lost on Tuesday in Detroit, 102-95. With no Howard, no Nelson and no Anderson, the Magic didn’t have enough to best the 19-33 Pistons. In fact, Orlando allowed the Motor City ballers to shoot 56.6% from the field. It was an opponent best against the Magic this compacted season. The one good piece of news for O-Town was replacement C Glen Davis scoring a career-high 31 points.
Tied up at one win apiece in the season series, tonight’s 48 will be the third and final time these two sides square off in the regular 66. Both teams need a ‘W’ to get back on track and to keep from unraveling down the backstretch. Orlando has to stop their skid, and New York must maintain their perilous position in the Eastern Conference standings to snag the last playoff spot.
Tune in to TNT at 7:00 PM ET to see who will rise to the occasion as this grinding season nears completion.