New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic Pick & Prediction MARCH 8th 2024

A piecemeal starting lineup Wednesday night was enough to help the Orlando Magic leapfrog the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Knicks hope they’re almost done with the days of mixing and matching lineups due to injuries.

The surging Magic and skidding Knicks hope to welcome back key players Friday when Orlando visits New York in a potential playoff preview.

The Magic won their fifth straight game Wednesday by overcoming a 21-point first-half deficit to beat the host Washington Wizards 119-109. The Knicks have been off since Tuesday, when they fell to the visiting Atlanta Hawks 116-100.

The results shuffled a jumbled Eastern Conference playoff picture and had a direct impact on the possible playoff paths for the Magic and Knicks.

Orlando moved into fourth place, a half-game ahead of New York and one game ahead of the Miami Heat, the latter of whom occupy the sixth and final guaranteed playoff spot.

The Magic, who posted just one winning record and two playoff victories over the past 11 seasons, came back to beat the NBA-worst Wizards despite playing without starters Wendell Carter Jr. (right knee) and Gary Harris (right calf) as well as reserve Jonathan Isaac (left knee).

All three players sat out the second game of a back-to-back set for maintenance purposes.

Harris has missed three of the past 15 games since returning from a lengthy absence, while Isaac has played a little more than 30 minutes total during the Magic’s winning streak.

The Magic trailed by 21 points midway through the second quarter Wednesday and were down 65-53 at the half, during which when the Wizards shot 55.6 percent from the field (25 of 45). But Orlando outscored Washington 66-44 over the final two quarters while limiting the hosts to 34.9-percent shooting.

“We claimed our identity,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We realized exactly who we need to be in order to come out and give ourselves a chance.

“In that first half, it was our offense that was affecting our defense. That second half, we realized that we’ve got to buckle down, sit down and guard and (that) the offense will come and flow if you guard the right way.”

Seeing their margin for error reduced is nothing new for the Knicks, who were in contention for the second seed in the East following a 14-2 January but have been trying to just stay afloat while battling injuries over the past five weeks.

New York is 5-9 since Feb. 1, a span in which it has been without OG Anunoby (right elbow surgery), Julius Randle (right shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (left ankle surgery), all of whom are out indefinitely.

Jalen Brunson, who leads the Knicks with 27.2 points and 6.6 assists per game, missed two games in February with ankle and neck injuries and played just 47 seconds in Sunday’s 107-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers before exiting with a bruised left knee.

Brunson sat out Tuesday but returned to practice Thursday along with Anunoby. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t know whether Brunson would carry an injury designation into Friday.

“You don’t want to see any of your players get hurt — I know the commitment that our guys have made, the sacrifices they’ve made,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously you want to be at full strength.

“But injuries are part of the game and it’s, ‘How quickly can we adapt as a team?’ That’s the challenge that we face.”

–Field Level Media

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