It's not looking good for the Raptors' chances at a high lottery pick.
First, the Raptors go out and beat on the Magic while all the other teams below them won as well.
Now the Raptors head into Madison Square Gardens and take on a Knicks team which has had all kinds of trouble beating sub .500 teams.
Yes, it seems that the good ship S.S. Knickerbocker has righted itself and are now battling for playoff position. A win on Sunday against the Cavaliers secured their playoff hopes.
For the Raptors, it means that they could probably win this game if they put in 3/4 of the effort they dumped into the Magic game.
And yes, while Jerryd Bayless had a fairly strong game against Orlando, let's not be so quick to anoint him as the next starting point guard. I am not sold on Bayless as a leading point guard. He's proven himself too wreckless, erratic, and a liability towards keeping an offensive flow and has done little to indicate a change in his gameplay. Jose Calderon may be pretty far from an "elite" point guard in this league, but I shudder to think about the consistency on this team if Bayless were to be given the keys of the franchise.
But for tonight, the Raptors play a New York Knicks team who are currently slated to play the Miami Heat, yet still have a chance to catch the 76ers so that they play Boston instead. No one knows for sure who the Knicks would prefer, but with the Raptors continuing to play hard, here are the areas where I'd like to see the Raptors focus on.
1) Forcing Melo into being a volume shooter - This is probably a pretty easy assignment and as long as James Johnson reads the scouting report, the Raptors will have a chance by letting Carmelo Anthony get his. I've never been a big believer in Carmelo Anthony as he's always had difficulties playing around a team concept. After being called out by Amare Stoudemire last month, I'm not sure how much he can change. Johnson certainly has the strength and size to challenge Carmelo, so here's hoping that Triano uses Johnson for a lot of the game.
2) Keep pace - The Knicks have one of the highest power offenses in the league this year with the second highest point average. The Raptors will be strained to keep up with the Knicks as the Knicks find a lot of their points coming from the three point line. Shawne Williams, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony and Toney Douglas all can stroke it from long range.
I fully expect the Raptors to have trouble keep pace with the Knicks. It's therefore imperative that they rebound the ball effectively, maximize every possession and create opportunities for easy baskets. Rebounding has to be a number 1 priority if the Raptors hope to keep pace, as every extra possession is going to be needed.
3) Attack the interior without fear - Yes, the Knicks have a formidable inside presence. Yes, they're forth in the league in blocks. But the Raptors need to get easy scoring chances. If that means attacking quickly on the break, or taking the hard foul while banging on the inside, the Raptors have to make it happen.
Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will be battling Amare Stoudemire for the whole game and here's hoping Jerryd Bayless will attempt to establish some of his bigs this game. Getting fouls on Amare will be a huge bonus to the team.