Melo and the Knicks want you to know that they have to win this game. But if they don't, it's not a big deal.

Magic-Knicks: Panic While We Backtrack, Backtrack While We Panic

Ok, Knicks fans.  You’ve seen the worst.  You’ve been to the lowest depths.  You’ve witnessed rock bottom.  I know this because Carmelo Anthony has branded this game “almost a must-win for us.”  Whoa!

Anthony went on to say in this article, “I want to approach this as a must-win game for us.”  So, it’s something almost resembling a game that ideally they’d like to view through a must-win lens.  Got it.  So if Dwight Howard runs out of teabags at halftime because he already handed them out to Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawne Williams, just relax, Knicks fans – it’s only almost a must-win game.

And Melo isn’t the only one doing a lot of talking.  Over the past few days Donnie Walsh has launched a “Blame Me!” campaign that, while admirable on its face, has amounted to reminding us that the trade in which we got the best player was actually made for the future, not the present.  As if there’s ever been a trade where the team acquiring the superstar didn’t expect to win more games than before.

“We had an opportunity to get two really good players and so I did it and I think it’s good for the franchise’s future,” Walsh told the Post here. “But I knew it would disrupt where we were from the trade deadline on. And I think that’s turned out to be true.”

And here’s another one: “We were missing pieces before the trade. We’re still missing the same pieces.”  What a ringing endorsement!  I bet he couldn’t wait to pull the trigger!

Anyway, judging from these remarks, the Knicks are no better prepared to win tonight’s game than they were a month ago, but that’s ok because they only almost need to win.

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Your likely Orlando starters are Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass and Dwight Howard.  That’s MVP candidate Dwight Howard, who – and I hope I’m saying this for the last time – cannot be guarded by Shawne Williams.

Magic Rotation: Orlando may find itself in the rare and precarious position of starting a point guard that Chauncey Billups can actually guard.  Stan Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel that he doesn’t know who will start with Jameer Nelson likely out with a sprained knee, but word is that Arenas will get the nod with Chris Duhon backing up.  Quentin Richardson is out with back spasms, so he and Melo will have to postpone round two of the baby-fat Olympics.  Finally, J.J. Redick is just hoping to be back for the playoffs after suffering an abdominal strain.

Defense!: Nelson’s injury does more than just open up time for Arenas and Duhon: it allows Billups to make a passable attempt at guarding his position.  Isn’t that nice, that the Knicks can start the guys they want to start without worrying about their point guard waving guys through like he’s working a tollbooth?  Anyway, Nelson’s absence should affect the Knicks’ lineup; although nothing has been announced as yet, I expect Mike D’Antoni to go back to Landry Fields in the starting lineup, with Shelden Williams to begin the game on Howard in place of the Ronny Turiaf, who will likely miss a second consecutive game.  I also expect to scream at my television when Shawne Williams is played at center and Howard works him like a speed-bag, but that’s another story.

Question: It probably happened at the beginning of the year and I just don’t remember, but does Turiaf ever actually get hurt during games?  It seems like his biweekly sabbaticals just come out of the ether, especially since when he actually is on the court he never seems to be in pain.  He’ll be jumping around on the sidelines, blocking shots and throwing his body around like a madman, looking perfectly healthy all the while, and then an hour before the next game we hear, oh, Ronny sprained his ankle and can’t play tonight.  Does he have some kind of trampoline habit we’re not aware of?  Just wondering.

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The Magic remind me of the Knicks in that they will go through prolonged spells of apathy and disengagement before they kick it into gear.  Five days ago the Knicks took advantage of a first-half Orlando malaise to grab a four-point lead at half.  Before the fourth-quarter slaughter, I don’t think a neutral observer could’ve called the Knicks anything but a good team closing out an equally good team at home.  Obviously we know about the struggles in the fourth quarter, but the Magic do stagger easily; the Knicks just don’t seem capable of delivering a knockout blow at the moment.  We’re waiting for this team to grow up, and now would be a nice time to start.   Enjoy the game if possible, and I’ll be on recap detail later tonight.

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