NEW YORK — The Orlando Magic’s top priority against the New York Knicks tonight will be straightforward in its aim and complex in its execution: Slow down Carmelo Anthony.
The Magic haven’t been able to do it yet this season. They haven't done it in recent seasons.
Anthony has torched them in the teams' two prior games this season, averaging 32.5 points per game on 49.0 percent shooting.
On Jan. 5, in New York’s 114-106 win over Orlando, Anthony dominated in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points. Nik Vucevic, the Magic’s center, occasionally guarded Anthony one-on-one when the Magic switched on Knicks pick-and-rolls.
“It’s tough,” Vucevic said after the Magic completed their shootaround this morning at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s not only me but the other defenders and I. You can’t really defend him because he has so many offensive skills and so many ways to score, so it’s really hard to defend him. I was just trying to stay in front of him and try to make him make a tough shot and use my length, but I wasn’t very successful with that. He had it going.”
The Magic, who have lost 17 of their last 19 games, likely will play tonight without wing Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo sat out Monday night’s game because of a strained left calf.
Although coach Jacque Vaughn said today he wasn’t sure whether Afflalo will play, Vaughn tends to be cautious in circumstances like these.
Magic rookie Maurice Harkless had some success defending against Anthony in the teams' first matchup this season, a 99-89 Knicks win on Nov. 13 at Amway Center.
Harkless, who played many of his home college games for St. John's at Madison Square Garden, can't wait to play his first NBA game at the arena.
"It's a dream come true," Harkless said today. "When I got older and started getting more into basketball, it became my dream. Now it's reality."
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times