The Orlando Magic will be confronted with a dilemma when they host the New York Knicks tonight. It’s a quandary the Magic didn’t solve last season or just a few weeks ago at Madison Square Garden.
How will the Magic defend Carmelo Anthony?
How much of the time will they guard him one-on-one? How often, and in what situations, will they send a help defender to double-team him?
When the Magic double-team Anthony, he typically responds by passing the ball to a teammate on the perimeter. That teammate either squares up for an open jumper or swings the ball along the perimeter to someone who is open.
In the last five games between the Knicks and the Magic — five New York wins — Anthony’s teammates have made 57 of their 134 attempts from 3-point range for an otherworldly accuracy rate of 42.5 percent.
But guarding Anthony one-on-one and staying at home on the Knicks’ perimeter shooters isn’t a guarantee for success, either. In the last five Knicks-Magic games, Anthony has made 46 of his 92 shot attempts, including 10 of 25 from 3-point range.
So, what will the Magic do tonight? Guard Anthony one-on-one or double-team him on occasion?
“It’s a little bit of a combination of both,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said after his team finished his morning shootaround at Amway Center.
“He could easily score 40 or 50 points on you, get you in foul trouble. We’ve seen games where those guys make shots. We’ve seen games where [J.R.] Smith puts up double-digit 3-point attempts. So, sometimes [it depends] on the feel of the game if those guys are making shots and how we’re defending one-on-one also.”
On Dec. 6, the Magic didn’t reach a palatable solution.
The Knicks clobbered them 121-83 as Anthony scored 20 points and dished out four assists. Meanwhile, Anthony’s teammates made 17 of their 34 shots from beyond the arc.
Magic combo forward Tobias Harris didn’t play in that game because he was suffering from a high-ankle sprain, but Harris has started Orlando’s last two games and could find himself defending against Anthony tonight.
"It's going to be a challenge," Harris said moments ago. "The guy can score as great as anybody in the NBA. I think tonight's a good challenge for me to go out there and test my game, and, at the same time, for us to go out and have a good gameplan for us to win this game. So, I think that's the most important thing."
“They’re a team that can get really hot. The last time they played us, they got a lot of 3 balls. But, for us, it’s just containing him and making his shots tough.”
• Magic guard E’Twaun Moore, who has a bruised thigh, will not play tonight, Vaughn said.
• Point guard Jameer Nelson has been fighting a cold over the last few days, but he said this morning that he feels fine. He participated in the Magic’s shootaround and is on track to play tonight.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun