Marquee Howard-Amar’e Matchup Comes To MSG
NEW YORK (AP) – The Orlando Magic cruised to three double-digit wins over the New York Knicks last season. They are expecting a tougher matchup with Amar’e Stoudemire having joined New York.
The Magic and Knicks play the first of four meetings when they take the court at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Orlando shot 53.9 percent last season in sweeping the season series from New York for the first time since 2001-02. Dwight Howard averaged 22.7 points and 13.0 rebounds, and the Magic made 38 3-pointers.
The new-look Knicks (1-2) now have Stoudemire, who went 11-1 in his career against Orlando with Phoenix. He has posted four straight double-doubles versus the Magic, averaging 23.3 points and 12.0 rebounds.
“That’s going to be a big challenge for me,” backup center Marcin Gortat said. “I am really confident about defending him so if coach (Stan Van Gundy) really needs me, I’m definitely ready.”
The Magic (1-1) have not played since they shot 30.4 percent in Friday’s 96-70 loss at Miami. It marked their worst shooting percentage since they finished at 30.4 percent Feb. 11, 2009, in an 82-73 loss to Denver.
The poor effort resulted in an intense practice session in which Van Gundy focused on setting screens. He’s hoping it will help the Magic improve on their 25.0 percent 3-point shooting after they finished third in the league at 37.5 percent in 2009-10.
“You gotta let it go, it’s the NBA,” guard Jameer Nelson said. “You win, you can’t get too high. You lose, you can’t get too low. Obviously, it’s game two, you have 80 left.”
One player looking forward to this trip is backup guard Chris Duhon, who spent the last two years starting for New York before singing a four-year deal with Orlando in the offseason. Duhon had only positive things to say about playing for the Knicks and at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a great arena, obviously the world’s most famous arena,” Duhon said. “Playing there was an experience you can’t put into words. When it’s rocking and the atmosphere is right, it’s a great place to play.”
That’s the kind of atmosphere the Knicks enjoyed in their home opener Saturday before they blew a late nine-point lead in a 100-95 loss to Portland. Wilson Chandler had 22 points and 16 boards off the bench while Stoudemire added 18 and five.
“We gave them a run for their money and we didn’t play particularly well,” Stoudemire said. “We are going to be OK.”
The Knicks are starting two rookies in Russian center Timofey Mozgov and second-round pick Landry Fields as well as newcomers Stoudemire and point guard Raymond Felton.
The lack of familiarity has shown, with Stoudemire committing 17 turnovers and Mozgov having more fouls (nine) than points (five).
“We’re still getting used to each other, still trying to get that chemistry, but things didn’t go our way,” Felton said Saturday.
The Knicks haven’t dropped their first two home games since beginning 0-3 at MSG in 2006-07.
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