Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors - What To Watch For

Tonight at 7:30, the Knicks take on the Toronto Raptors for the third time this season. The Knicks have had two days of rest since completing a home-and-home sweep of the Indiana Pacers to stretch their winning streak to three games since Mike D'Antoni's departure and Mike Woodson's arrival. The Raptors have also had two days rest since completing a four-games-five-days stretch, but only went 2-2 during it and they struggle pretty heftily on the road.

The top of the division is within sights and two games against the Raptors, and a game against the Pistons this week would help them get back near .500. Of course, they have to take it one game at a time, and that starts tonight.

Take the jump for some things to watch for!

  • Over the last five games, Jerryd Bayless has been starting for the Raptors for the injured Jose Calderon. During that stretch, Bayless averaged almost 22 points on 54% FG. However, Jose Calderon is expected to return tonight and he has been a Knick killer this season. The Knicks put Iman Shumpert on Calderon to lock him down in the second half and they got great results. Now with two potent guards in their rotation though, the Knicks will have their hands full. Lin's defense has been better as of late, but with Baron Davis out, might we see a little bit of Toney Douglas if the team is struggling to contain Toronto's guards?
  •  The Raptors aren't elite shot-blockers - they rank exactly 15th in block rating - but last game in Toronto, they registered 11 blocks on the Knicks. Seven of them came on Amar'e Stoudemire, who was just returning to the team after his brother's death, but the Raptors have some lanky, athletic big men who can turn shots away at the rim. Approach with caution, Knicks.
  •  The Knicks offense has been good the last few games, but it's been their defense that has won the games. Mike Woodson and the players have been all over this "accountability" system, and it seems to work as guys are really buckling down and playing tight defense. The Raptors aren't a terrific offensive team, so if the Knicks really lock down, they could create some easy scoring opportunities for themselves and potentially weaken Toronto's spirit.
  • During the course of the three-game winning streak, the Knicks are shooting over 40% from 3-point range. A lot of that has come from Steve Novak's typically accurate fingers, but J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony have been hot too. Making the 3-pointer spreads the court and opens the offense for everyone, especially Lin for driving, and for Stoudemire and Chandler down low. We'll see if they can sustain their hot shooting.

That's it, everybody! Last time these two teams met, Linsanity reached its peak with this. A lot of things have happened since then, but the Knicks are hoping to recapture those same winning ways. Let's go Knicks!

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