Coming off a 16-point loss to the league-leading Toronto Raptors on Saturday afternoon, the turmoil-plagued New York Knicks return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night to host the woeful Orlando Magic and hopefully bring some calm into their world.
If it were just the on-court product, that would be one thing. The Knicks are certainly struggling on the hardwood, where they've dropped three of four, including a 116-115 loss to the Chicago Bulls in their last home game on Nov. 5.
But with coach David Fizdale in the news for all the wrong reasons -- he claimed Thursday that his star player and the face of the franchise, Kristaps Porzingis, had not made significant progress in his rehab and was not yet sprinting, only for Porzingis to post a video on Instagram of him sprinting later that day -- perhaps a date with the 5-7 Magic is what the team needs right now.
"I'm the only doofus that didn't know he had went out to the track," Fizdale said. " ... My big thing is, I'm just happy when I get him back. I'm not as much on the day-to-day updates. I'm not into that. When I get him back, I'm going to be happy as heck."
He certainly wasn't happy after the Knicks were blown out in the middle two quarters of what was a tight game against the Raptors on Saturday in their 128-112 loss. Toronto outscored New York 75-57 in the second and third quarters after being tied at 25 after one as it failed to break off a winning streak after beating Atlanta 112-108 on Nov. 7.
Now the Knicks take on a Magic squad that has won three of four, including a 117-108 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday, when Nikola Vucevic led the way with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Orlando led by as much as 25 late in the game, but Washington's rally fell short after the Wizards cut it to one with 2:30 left.
"No lead in the league is safe," Orlando coach Steve Clifford told reporters after the game. "They had a lot of firepower on the floor. (John) Wall got going, they downsized and spread us out."
For the Magic, the win was a quick fix after they lost to Detroit on Wednesday, when they were outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter.
"We lost the game the other night because we didn't finish the game," guard D.J. Augustin said. "We know we can't let up and have to keep fighting to the end. It's the NBA. Teams can come back because there are great players on the floor."
In the teams' first matchup of the season, the Knicks will rely on Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 27 points in the loss to Toronto. Hardaway had just seven points in a loss last Sunday at Washington, but he has been remarkably consistent this season, averaging 24.3 points while scoring fewer than 20 points just once in his first seven games.
"It started in the summer," Fizdale told reporters last week of Hardaway. "His commitment to the conditioning, his commitment to improving in the areas that I saw could take him to another level, a lot of them not being technical things. He's really been a consistent leader, consistent effort guy every day here in practice. I'm not surprised it's happening for his game."