The New York Knicks have lost five of their last eight games and need to get their act together to maintain their hold on the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
On their road trip to Orlando, the Knicks will be looking to get back on track. Yet, it’s easier to say than to actually carry out. The Magic will not make the playoffs this year, but things are looking up for Orlando. The Magic have improved greatly this year, and rookie Paolo Banchero is the clear frontrunner for rookie of the year.
Are you sure? The NBA odds don’t lie: New York is only a 3.5-point favorite. I analyze the Knicks and the Magic and give you my best NBA picks and predictions for this East matchup.
Knicks vs. Magic picks and predictions
For a while there, the Knicks were unstoppable, winning nine in a row from late February to early March. However, the team has yet to do so well as of late, losing five of their last eight games (including the last two in a row, last night to the Miami Heat).
Their defense was terrible in those contests, allowing a combined 127 and 140 points. And that has been the case all through this difficult period. The Knicks are allowing 116.5 points per game during this eight-game losing streak, good for 25th in the NBA in defensive rating.
The Magic have won two of their last three games leading up to this one, including their most recent game where they defeated the Washington Wizards 122-112. Paolo Banchero, a leading Rookie of the Year candidate, has led Orlando. This season, the former Blue Devil is putting up impressive numbers for the Magic, with averages of 20 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.
However, this is wider than the Banchero region. The Magic now have some young talent to build around with Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., and perhaps even Markelle Fultz. And they’re hitting their stride at just the right time of the season.
Since the beginning of March, the Magic’s shooting percentage has increased to 15th in the NBA, and their high pace (they are sixth in the NBA in pace this month) has helped them score 117.5 points per game, which is respectable. During that time frame, that ranks 11th best in the NBA.
The Knicks’ offense has been alright recently despite their recent struggles. Jalen Brunson has continued his outstanding play from this season. Even though Julius Randle’s performance against the Timberwolves was inconsistent, he still managed to score 57 points. RJ Barrett, meanwhile, appears to be relaxing into his role.
The Knicks have been scoring 119.7 points per game since the beginning of March, good enough for seventh in the NBA. They are also eighth in field goal percentage. Tonight, they’ll play the Magic, who have a below-average defense. Against the field goal, Orlando is ranked 19th in defensive efficiency and 20th in field goal percentage allowed.
Taking the Over in this one because it will be very different from the previous two meetings between these teams.
Knicks vs. Magic spread analysis
The Magic are only 3.5-point home underdogs and the oddsmakers haven’t budged from that point spread. Several factors have contributed to that result.
As was already stated, the Magic have been putting together some respectable recent basketball. And it’s been reflected in their sales figures. The Magic have covered the spread three times in a row as 6.5-point or more underdogs and won the game.
It’s been something of a trend for them this season. As 5- to 9.5-point underdogs, the Magic have a stellar 21-11-1 ATS record.
The fact that the Knicks are playing the second game of a back-to-back doubleheader also plays a role. Nonetheless, this phrasing gives Magic too much credit.
The Knicks have swept the season series, including a four-point victory in Orlando in early February. Following last night’s defeat to the Heat, New York will want to get back on track as soon as possible. Also, they excel at it. In the second game of a back-to-back, the Knicks have a 22-7-2 ATS record in their last 31 contests.
The Knicks have a better chance of winning because their best players will be able to outshine Banchero and company.
Knicks vs. Magic Over/Under Analysis
As of early Thursday afternoon, the total had dropped from its opening number of 229 to 228.5 due to betting on online NBA betting sites. I’ve already explained why I’m picking the Over, but I’ll add that three of the Knicks’ last four games have gone Over, and seven of the Magic’s last nine games have also gone Over. I also anticipate a higher number of possessions and scoring opportunities thanks to the Knicks’ faster pace of play as of late.