Pre-Game News and Notes
Raptors vs Knicks: MSG 730pm
Much like last week against the Washington Wizards the Knicks will face off against a team whose record does not tell the whole story of the team they are facing. The Raptors enter tonight’s contest with a 20-32 record, but have a new toy in Rudy Gay that makes they a dangerous team. The remainder of this season for the Raptors will be a building block into next season when they look to make their push into the post season. The Raptors enter the game tonight on a three-game winning streak and if not taken seriously will run the Knicks out of the Garden. The Knicks will look to enter the All-Star break on a high note with a victory tonight instead of a low note and two game losing streak.
-Avoid Slow Start
The Knicks have become stubbornly consistent at starting games slowly recently. They dig themselves into a hole they can sometimes not overcome and fall behind so much that their valiant effort falls short in the end.
Against the Raptors tonight getting off to a hot start is key, as they come into Madison Square Garden riding high on a three-game win streak and new found depth after the acquisition of Rudy Gay.
Getting off to a slow start will doom the Knicks, as the Raptors are shaping up to be a team that cannot be taken lightly. They are also coming off a thrilling home victory last night against the Denver Nuggets, so the Knicks should bring it to them right from the start, as they could possibly be fatigued.
Much like the Knicks with Amar’e Stoudemire, the Raptors have a former go-to player coming off the bench in former number one overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Since Gay’s arrival Bargnani has been coming off the bench for the Raptors and has not made a fuss about being moved to the second unit. That will be the matchup of the night to watch, as both Stoudemire and Bargnani are a big part of what both teams do to win.
The rest of the bench battle will be just as tantalizing of a matchup, as the Knicks will see former shooting guard Landry Fields and athletic rookie Terrence Ross. It will be up to J.R. Smith to match if not out produce those two, as the Knicks bench has given next to nothing recently. Against a team in transition after a trade is a good time for the second unit to get going.
-Slow Down the Perimeter
With the acquisition of Gay, the Raptors now have two super athletic wing players in their starting lineup for opposing teams to contend with now that he is paired with DeMar DeRozan; who is having a break-out season of his own. Both players are capable of finishing a possession that is running low on the shot clock and have a wide array of ways to score. Slowing them down should be the Knicks number one priority as the rest of the team feeds off what they do.
Where the Knicks need to improve is in the screen game, as the Raptors will run Gay and DeRozan off screens like they are going out of style. With how the Knicks play the pick-and-roll and screen game, this could lead to problems, as big men such as Tyson Chandler may be asked to slow down the dynamic duo of Gay and DeRozan for stretches of the game.
The Knicks will have to be on top of the transition game as well, as Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry likes to push the ball in transition and get fast break points for his team. The Raptors have athletic finishers in Gay, DeRozan and Ross who can all finish with authority at the basket, evident by the fact that Ross will be taking part in the Dunk Contest this weekend during the All-Star Break.