The Orlando Magic will look to continue their recent success in home openers when they face the New York Knicks on Friday at the Amway Center.
The Magic are winners of four straight home openers and extending that streak could provide a confidence boost to a franchise that has dropped eight regular season games in a row.
The Magic tipped off their new season on the road Wednesday in San Antonio and the result was a 123-97 loss to the Spurs, which followed seven consecutive defeats to end Orlando’s 2020-21 campaign.
Following a 21-51 showing last season that left the Magic a distant fifth place in the Southeast Division and 14th overall in the Eastern Conference, Orlando hired former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley as their head coach in July.
Mosley has been tasked with shaping a revamped Orlando roster featuring some key trade acquisitions — namely Wendell Carter Jr. as the part of the deal that sent All-Star center Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls in March — as well as a pair of Top 10 picks from the 2021 NBA Draft in Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs and Michigan’s Franz Wagner.
“I really look at it as one game at a time, one practice at a time. We constantly talk about just the ability to get better day by day, doing the work, putting in the work,” Mosley said. “So, as the games come up, we’ll look at it as who we’re playing and go from there. Prepare the best way we can for them and then go to that next game. But I think it’s really a game-to-game, day-to-day basis on how we’re trying to approach it.”
But Orlando started the season considerably undermanned.
Forward Chuma Okeke and guards E’Twaun Moore and Gary Harris were sidelined with injuries against San Antonio. The Magic are also without Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz — both continue to rehabilitate from significant knee injuries — and veteran Michael Carter-Williams is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
Suggs, who missed Orlando’s final preseason game due to a non-COVID illness, joined Wagner and second-year player Cole Anthony (10 points) in Orlando’s starting lineup Wednesday. Wagner had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while Suggs went 3 for 14 from the floor and finished with 10 points.
Mo Bamba topped Orlando with 18 points and four blocked shots and Carter, who agreed to a four-year contract extension prior to the start of the regular season, had 13 points and eight rebounds. Terrence Ross scored 15 points off the bench.
The Knicks outlasted the visiting Boston Celtics 138-134 in double overtime on Wednesday. Julius Randle had a starring role in New York’s memorable season opener with 35 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Former Magic standout Evan Fournier made six 3-pointers and tied his career high with 32 points, and he also became the first Knick to score 30 points while debuting with the team.
“We’ve seen him (Fournier) do that, that’s who he is,” New York head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the Boston win. “I never worried about him making shots. To me, he’s proven throughout his career that that’s what he is.”
It was the Knicks debut for guard Kemba Walker, who scored 10 points and added eight rebounds. He grew up in the Bronx and felt the love in his homecoming.
“So much was running through my mind,” Walker said. “Just really couldn’t believe it. Really just playing for the home team.
“I’m really a kid from the Bronx, born and raised in this city. To put that jersey on for the first time, for the real regular season, and being announced, man … it was definitely an amazing feeling.”