Friday, March 23, 2012

Knicks at Toronto Raptors - What To Watch For

Following a day off - of traveling presumably - the Knicks face the Toronto Raptors for the final time this season. The Knicks currently stand one game below .500 and are just three games out of the lead for the Atlantic division! They recently beat Philadelphia in one of the grittiest, most defensive efforts we'd seen all season. And before that, the Knicks beat down the Raptors in MSG.

As always though, the Knicks have to be aware of trap games. Recall that the seven-game Linsanity win streak was snapped by a loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets. Tonight presents a great chance to get back to .500 and move up the standings, but a team can never be taken lightly.

Take the jump for what to watch for tonight!

  • During the Knicks current five-game win streak, they're giving up just 86.6 ppg, which, believe it or not, would probably make them about a top five defense in the league. I repeat: the Knicks are on the verge of being an elite defensive team. The Raptors (and the Pistons tomorrow) are both pretty average or below average defensive teams, so the Knicks shouldn't be too challenged, but they should still come out with the same defensive ferocity that they showed against the Sixers on Wednesday.
  • Amar'e Stoudemire is having his best month of the season and has looked much more like the 2010 Stat in the last two games than he has all season. For the month of March, he's averaging 18.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, and 60% FG, but in the last two games he's put up a combined 43 points, 21 rebounds, and has shot 59% from the field. Stoudemire has the quickness and strength to do what he wants against any of the Toronto defenders, so his teammates should make a point of keeping him in rhythm and trying to restore his confidence. Clearly, the Knicks are a better team when Stoudemire plays like an All-Star.
  • In this crucial stretch of games to end the season and race to winning the division, the Knicks need their two top guns to be at their best. Stoudemire's shown signs, but Carmelo Anthony continues to struggle. He's having the worst season of his NBA career, and the Knicks can't expect to make a serious run if he's not playing well. Toronto doesn't really possess any terrific wing defenders, so the Knicks should also make a point of trying to get Carmelo's rhythm and confidence back. Let him isolate a little bit, get him the ball at a continuous pace, get him good looks on catch-and-shoots, etc.
  • As mentioned earlier, the Knicks beat down the Raptors three days ago, but previously, they stole a game in Toronto when Jeremy Lin hit a game-winning 3-pointer. All NBA teams are prideful groups and don't want to be shown up. The Raptors got swept in Linsanity and the Knicks are now making headlines around the league, so you have to expect that Toronto will want to dull the noise. 

And now for my final point: I won't be around to watch the game tonight. I'm opening this up as an opportunity to comment, email me or tweet me a recap! I could always just link to other recaps, but that's not as fun. So, if you read this, contact me in some way and let me know if you're interested in writing a recap, which I will post tomorrow morning!

The game is at 7 tonight, folks. Go Knicks!

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