The New York Knicks made a lineup change to their frontcourt their last time out, and it could pay dividends against their next opponent.
The visiting Knicks are hoping a strong defensive effort carries over Saturday night when they try to extend the Orlando Magic’s longest losing streak in seven seasons.
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New York (22-10) had lost five of eight before coach Mike Woodson gave Marcus Camby his first start of the season Thursday. Camby had six rebounds in 15 minutes, and the Knicks credited the former Defensive Player of the Year with helping them limit San Antonio to its lowest point total of the season in a 100-83 home victory.
“He’s obviously a defensive presence out there,” said starting center Tyson Chandler, who had 10 points and 14 boards. “He takes up a lot of space, is able to recover having another shot blocker out there as well as another rebounder.”
The Knicks enjoyed a 48-35 edge on the glass. A frontcourt featuring the 7-foot-1 Chandler and 6-11 Camby could help in containing emerging Orlando 7-footer Nikola Vucevic, who has 14 double-doubles and has totaled 40 points and 41 rebounds over his last two games.
That production for Vucevic has been hollow since the Magic (12-20) have dropped seven straight for the first time since an eight-game slide Feb. 6-22, 2006. All of the losses have come since they lost Glen Davis, who remains out with a sprained shoulder and worked out Thursday for the first time since the injury.
Orlando has lost five times by four points or fewer in this stretch without Davis, the team’s second-leading scorer (16.0 ppg) and rebounder (7.9 rpg).
“They’ve played extremely hard over more than a few games,” coach Jacques Vaughn said. “They’re trying to put in the work and you want to reap the benefits of your work, and in this league, it’s wins and losses.”
Jameer Nelson returned Wednesday after missing two games with a sore hip and scored a season-high 32 points in a 96-94 defeat to Chicago. Orlando nearly fought back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter.
“There are some good things that we’ve been doing lately and I think that if we keep playing like this way, we’re going to get some wins and once we get some guys back, it’s going to be even better,” Vucevic said.
Nelson was out with an injury the first time these teams met Nov. 13, when the visiting Knicks overcame a 42-31 rebounding disparity and won 99-89 behind Carmelo Anthony’s 25 points.
New York has had Anthony and Amare Stoudemire back the last two games. Anthony, averaging 33.8 points in his last nine contests, had missed two games with a hyperextended left knee while Stoudemire has come off the bench in his first action since knee surgery.
This is Stoudemire’s first road game. He had 10 points and two boards in 20 minutes Thursday.
“It was better,” Stoudemire said. “I was definitely more comfortable defensively after watching so much film and just studying and listening to the coaching staff. I felt much more comfortable defensively. Offensively it’s going to come, that comes with just playing and repetition.”
Magic second-year guard E’Twaun Moore is out with a sprained left elbow while forward Maurice Harkless could see action after Vaughn said he sat the rookie the last two games to give him rest.
While New York is averaging an NBA-low 11.1 turnovers, Orlando is forcing a league-worst 12.5 per game. That average is 8.6 during the Magic’s current five-game home losing streak, their longest since a seven-game skid March 13-April 10, 2004.