The New York Knicks came out of the gates as one of the hottest teams in the league. They haven’t been able to sustain that level of play and have since cooled off a bit. They still represent a big test for the Toronto Raptors tonight, especially on the road, with the Raptors coming off last night's big win.
Landry Fields, if he plays, will be making his ‘much-awaited’ return to Madison Square Garden. He was a fan favourite amongst the Knicks-faithful during his time in Manhattan and it will be interesting to see the type of reception he gets.
The Knicks haven’t played since Sunday, when they were blown out by Chris Paul and the LA Clippers.
Without further ado, here are the 3 keys to a third win a row:
1) Kyle Lowry: The Knicks have had trouble dealing with point guards, this season. Jose Calderon (in a Pistons jersey) and Chris Paul are two recent examples of instances where the opposing point guard was able to cut through the Knicks’ defence at-will. Jason Kidd isn’t the most mobile defender but he makes up for his lack of mobility with a savvy basketball IQ. Raymond Felton is the ideal "solid but unspectacular" option. This is a matchup that Lowry really should be taking advantage of and it will be interesting to see how often Casey draws out Tyson Chandler on the pick and roll.
2) Wings: DeMar DeRozan likes playing the New York Knicks. His career average against New York is 19.2 PPG, the highest for any opponent. His play had taken a bit of a nosedive midway through the season but it’s picked up since the team’s acquisition of Rudy Gay. Gay has averaged over 20 points per game since the team acquired him and will need to continue to be aggressive on the offensive end. He’ll have his hands full trying to deal with Carmelo Anthony. Gay actually did a good job defending Paul George the other night, and he’ll have to bring more of the same defensive intensity to stop one of the best pure scorers in the league.
3) Bench Play: The Raptors’ bench has been looking a bit thin as of late. The onus on players like Alan Anderson and John Lucas to be impact players has increased and the results have been mixed. The Knicks are able to bring guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith off the pine. The bench matchup between both teams is going to be fascinating and should have a big say in determining which team emerges on the winning end.
If anything, the Raptors should look into talking with Amar’e Stoudemire’s nutritionist.
Oh, and if you’re needing a few extra laughs this afternoon, there’s always J.R. Smith’s Twitter timeline.