The New York Knicks aren’t playing like a team focused on improving its chances to earn the No. 1 overall draft pick at the moment.
They’ll look for a season-high third straight win while trying to hand the visiting Orlando Magic a fourth consecutive defeat Friday night.
Two nights after snapping a 16-game skid with a 99-92 home win over New Orleans, New York (7-36) won 98-91 at Philadelphia on Wednesday to post consecutive victories for the second time.
”Guys are still having fun with the game and not letting our record keep us down,” said Carmelo Anthony, who had 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Owners of the NBA’s worst record and tied with Minnesota for the fewest victories, the Knicks topped an eight-win 76ers club in a meeting dubbed the "Tank Bowl." Anthony feels he’s not capable of playing not to win.
"I don’t know how to have that mindset," said the star forward, who has averaged 25.3 points in three games since missing six with a sore knee.
"Having that mindset as a basketball player, as a competitor, is really hard to do unless you don’t care. I think that’s a bad mentality to have."
New York has allowed averages of 92.0 points and 39.1 percent shooting in three contests after yielding 109.0 and 51.8 in the previous four.
"Just build on it, build on the momentum," Anthony said.
Looking to win two straight at Madison Square Garden for the second time this season, New York had a four-game home winning streak against Orlando (15-30) end with a 97-95 loss Nov. 12. Anthony scored 27, but picked up a fifth foul with 5:41 to play. The Knicks were shut out during the 2 minutes he sat and managed 19 points in the final period.
Anthony has averaged 27.6 points and 55.4 percent shooting while going 14 of 23 from 3-point range in his last five meetings with the Magic.
Evan Fournier scored a career-high 28 points and Nikola Vucevic added 20 and 13 rebounds Nov. 12.
Vucevic had 26 points and 15 boards while Victor Oladipo scored 23 for the second straight game in Wednesday’s 128-118 loss at Detroit.
Orlando has scored more than 115 points three times in four games but has allowed an average of 117.6 in its last five. It’s yielded a season high for points in the last two – it fell 127-99 to Oklahoma City on Sunday – while giving up a combined 72 in the first quarter of both.
"We need to do a better job defensively,” Vucevic told the Magic’s official website. "We’re not starting the game off right."
Second on the team with 18.0 points per game, Tobias Harris started his first 37 games but is likely to be kept out of Orlando’s starting lineup for a second straight contest. He scored 19 on Wednesday after missing five with an ankle injury.
"He’s still getting himself back into shape after missing two weeks," coach Jacque Vaughn said. That’s about it."
Oladipo, who has averaged 25.4 points in five games, missed the first meeting with New York due to a facial fracture. He had 30 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in a 129-121 double-overtime home victory over the Knicks on Feb. 21. Anthony scored 44.