Magic-Knicks Preview

It’s always unfortunate when a Broadway show is without one of

its major cast members.

That scenario could unfold not far away at Madison Square Garden

in a star-studded matchup on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

It’s unclear if Carmelo Anthony will be available to join Amare

Stoudemire and the New York Knicks as they take on Dwight Howard

and the Orlando Magic on Monday.

Anthony missed Saturday’s 104-92 loss at Oklahoma City because

of a sprained right ankle and injured left wrist. The Knicks top

scorer at 25.5 points per game could still be out for the opener of

a four-game homestand.

Without him, New York (6-6) gave up 70 points in the first half

Saturday and never threatened in its second straight loss.

“The great thing about the NBA is that we’ve got a game coming

up soon so we can try to redeem ourselves against Orlando,”

Stoudemire said.

Getting back on track against Howard could be difficult. The

Orlando center leads the NBA in rebounding with a career-high 15.2

per game, and enters off a monster performance in his last one.

Howard finished with 45 points and 23 rebounds and broke Wilt

Chamberlain’s nearly 50-year-old NBA record for most free throw

attempts in a game, making 21 of 39 in a 117-109 victory over

Golden State on Thursday. He’s the first player with at least 40

points and 20 rebounds since Shaquille O’Neal had 48 and 20 against

the Celtics on March 1, 2003.

“I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn’t

care if I missed 30,” Howard said. “I was still going to go up

there and shoot the next one with confidence.”

The Magic (8-3) come to New York as a well-rested team after

winning three straight on the West Coast. Howard totaled 18 points

and 17 rebounds in the first two games before his huge effort

against the Warriors.

“All I want to do is win,” Howard said. “It didn’t matter how we

got it done, we got it done. That’s the bottom line.”

Howard has posted nine straight double-doubles against the

Knicks, averaging 25.4 points on 64.0 percent shooting and 14.4

rebounds in those games.

It will up to a New York frontcourt that includes Stoudemire and

newcomer Tyson Chandler to provide some resistance to Howard. The

Knicks are searching for answers defensively after their first-half

effort against the Thunder.

“It will get better. Definitely has to get better,” Chandler

said. “We gave up way too many points. Tonight our offense did a

better job moving the ball and scoring points but we had a letdown

defensively.”

Stoudemire went 11-1 against the Magic with Phoenix from 2002-09

before averaging 23.3 points and 5.5 rebounds against them last

season as New York went 1-3.

He had 14 points on 7-of-19 shooting Saturday, but believes that

the Knicks’ offense is on the right track. New York is among the

NBA’s worst teams in shooting percentage (.417) and assists per

game (18.3).

“We stayed focused, we had great pep talks, we implemented a

better offensive scheme and tonight was the first night of that,”

Stoudemire said. “We did a good job of moving the ball.”