After what seems like two weeks off, the New York Knicks will be putting their undefeated 4-0 start on the line in Orlando as they travel to meet the Magic who have been on a rough losing streak of late.
Carmelo Anthony has put together a four game stretch to start the season that has him near the top of everybody's MVP rankings. His 27 points per game lead the league, and he has posted a respectable seven rebounds per contest as well.
Orlando counters with, well a team of basketball players. They don't have anybody with the firepower of Anthony, but they've got a bunch of guys capable of doing a little bit of scoring here and there.
Will the Magic pull themselves together after four straight losses, two of which came in embarrassing fashion to the Brooklyn Nets, or will their bad luck and streak of terrible basketball continue against the lone undefeated team left in the league?
Time: 7:00 P.M. EST
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: New York (4-0), Orlando (2-4)
Betting Line: New York -6.5
Key Storyline: New York's Undefeated Start
For the first time since the 1999-00 season the New York Knicks have started the season 4-0. If that sounds like a long time just sit for a minute and remember how depressingly bad the Knicks were at times during the '00s.
What's even more impressive is that New York has done it while starting Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, putting a super-small lineup out there for the first four games of the season.
The Knicks are without their normal shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, and they'll be without him until January at the very least. So what you see is what you'll get for a while as far as New York's starting lineup goes.
They've been able to take the first four games of the season in impressive fashion thanks to 44 percent of their three-pointers falling and Tyson Chandler continuing to anchor the defense.
Going to Orlando will kick off their first road trip of the season with trips to San Antonio and Memphis following this game against the Magic. They've played but one game on the road so far this season, and that was a hop, skip and a jump down the road to Philadelphia.
Orlando might not be their biggest challenge of the young season, but a win here will continue to turn some of the non-believers out there into believers.
Key Matchup: Carmelo Anthony vs. Big Baby
Nobody out there expects Glen Davis to shut down Carmelo Anthony, nor do they expect him to keep up with Carmelo offensively. Is it possible? Sure, but it's extremely unlikely with Tyson Chandler backing Anthony up on the defensive end.
In reality this is the key matchup because nobody other than Carmelo on either of these teams can strike fear into his opponent with any kind of regularity, even if this is a recent development for 'Melo.
Carmelo has made his early MVP case by dragging power forwards up and down the court. He's had great games against tall, long-armed forwards and also short, quick forwards. It really makes no difference at this point who's guarding him.
His game has turned into an almost playful mix-and-match of taking slower guys off the dribble, only to pull up for a shot when they cheat back and give him a little bit of room. If it's a smaller guy on him he's capable of posting up just as easily.
Big Baby is gonna get torn up if he doesn't come to play against Carmelo, and that's going to mean chasing him around the court all night long.
X-Factors: J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith just hasn't missed shots in New York's four wins this season, and it's not like he's been shy about taking them.
Smith has put up 16 threes through the first four games, knocking down 11 of them. For those of you who can't do math, that's more than half, by quite a few. Add that to his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rack, and you've got a difficult man to guard when he's hot.
More surprisingly, Smith has been a pretty good passer so far this year, posting two games in which he's registered at least five assists. Is this a sign that he's choosing wiser shots? If that's true then the rest of the league better watch out.
The battle of X-factors give us a lot of initials for this game, as J.J. Redick has been one of the few bright spots off the bench for the Orlando Magic over the course of the first few weeks of the young season.
As one of the few guys off Orlando's bench doing anything, Redick is the third-highest scoring member of the Magic and is always a guy to watch when he gets the ball out beyond the three-point line.
Like everybody else he struggled in their two games against Brooklyn, but that'll happen when your team averages 71 points over the course of two games.
Redick is going to be an interesting guy to watch over the course of the next few months, especially to see if there's any kind of regression in his game. More than anything we need to keep an eye on his assist numbers. His career 1.7 per game is butted up against a 5.3 average through six for the Magic.
The Magic are in trouble in this one. They were just pounded by a Nets team that, for all intents and purposes, has a terrible defense.
If the Knicks come in and play the defense that they've played all season long (they've yet to give up more than 95 points and allowed more than 90 just once), then the Magic could get held to fewer than 80 points for the third game in a row.
Orlando has scored more than 20 points just twice in the past 12 quarters. That's just not the kind of team you can bet on against a red-hot team like the Knicks who have been bringing it on both ends of the court.
I smell a blowout.
New York 104, Orlando 81