Things got ugly for the Raptors on Wednesday, as they were unable to beat an inferior opponent in the Charlotte Bobcats. Throughout the team's history, the Raptors have been known as a team that will play down t the level of their competition.
On the other hand, they have also shown on multiple occasions that they can play up to more superior teams.
Despite being shorthanded - Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas are all out for the Knicks - New York should still be considered a top tier team in the East, which should be something the Raptors can amp themselves up to play against.
The Knicks are currently just one game up on the Brooklyn Nets for the Atlantic Division lead and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. With 14 games remaining, the Knicks are still very much battling for playoff position -- The Atlanta Hawks are also within striking distance, just three games back of that third seed in the East. The Knicks clearly have much more to play for than the Raptors, however sometimes it is that team that has nothing to lose that is the most dangerous.
As always here are the keys to the game:
1. Landry Fields: The last two times the Raptors have met the Knicks, Landry Fields has been given the assignment of guarding Carmelo Anthony for a substantial amount of the game. I'd expect things to be the same this time around - and if Fields can once again come through and make things difficult for Carmelo, the Knicks lack other significant scoring options for Toronto to be concerned with.
2. Watch out for J.R Smith: Smith will be the other big gun that this team possesses. By bringing him off of the bench, Mike Woodson gives his team a favorable offensive matchup with Smith, which makes him that much more effective. Dwane Casey is going to need to be aware of this and he is going to need to match up Smith with some of his better defenders. You might see Alan Anderson, Terrence Ross or even Rudy Gay in that spot.
3. Get Rudy Gay going to the basket: As mentioned above, Tyson Chandler is out. Without Chandler, the Knicks have no interior presence, making it much easier to covert at the rim for a guy like Rudy Gay. Gay is more effective when he takes the ball to the basket instead of settling for tough midrange jumpers. The more easy baskets Gay get's, the better chance this team has of beating the Knicks.