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Tip-In: Night and Day

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Perfection.

Not a word that would normally be used to describe the Toronto Raptors but after witnessing the team's play in yesterday's absolute demolition of the previously red-hot New York Knicks, one that is actually a pretty nice fit.

On a handful of occasions this year, and especially of late, I've felt that the Raptors played to the peak of their ability. Yesterday however may have been pushing even past that. Even without second leading scorer and sparkplug Mike James, the Raptors ran their offence to "perfection" and did a pretty good job on the defensive end too thrashing the New York Knicks 129 - 112.

The Raptors got great games from the usual suspects in Chris Bosh (23 points, 6 rebounds) and Morris Peterson (28 points, 4 assists) but it was Jalen Rose who trumped them all. Jalen had his best game of the year pouring in 31 points, dishing for 6 assists, collecting 2 steals and even recording a block! Yes a block and it was on the blocks that Jalen did most of his damage constantly posting up his defender and using various classic Jalen moves to get to the rim or to draw contact. Apparently Rose had been shooting the lights out in practice and it seems that this carried over to yesterday's game. He was 10 for 15 from the floor and 10 for 11 from the free throw line.

Individual exploits aside, this was a total team effort on the Raptors' behalf. The Knicks, playing their fifth game in eight days, looked tired from the outset and just couldn't match Toronto's energy level and intensity. The Raptors punished the Knicks from inside out with great ball movement establishing Chris Bosh early and then proceeding to fire away from the perimeter. The Raptors shot an incredible 59% from the field and 40% from three-point range for the game and out-rebounded the Knicks 37-33. This last statistic was a huge factor in negating second chance opportunities for New York's athletic perimeter players. The Knicks going into yesterday's contest were the third best rebounding team in the league and Toronto's dominance on the glass is a testament to both Toronto's effort in that department and to the preparation laid out by the Raptors' coaching staff. In fact Sam Mitchell and co. once again did a great job of subbing players in at opportune times (yes, Loren Woods even made an appearance) and switching up defensive schemes frustrating the Knicks into playing 1 on 5 basketball.

Toronto's next game is against the improved and healthier Utah Jazz and will be a great test for the Raptors, especially if Mike James is still unable to play. Jose Calderon ran Sam Mitchell's offence expertly yesterday and finished with a 13 points and 10 assists constantly pushing the ball but the Raptors would love to have James back in the lineup to match up against the stronger Deron Williams. Additionally the Raptors will have to bring their best defensive effort against Utah who are certainly no New York Knicks in that regard.

As an aside, watching the Knicks is a bit like trying to build a Lego castle with Lego space pieces...lots of interesting parts, none of which go together to achieve the desired end result. It's mind-boggling to think about this random team that Isiah Thomas has put together and therefore Larry Brown has his work cut out for him. RaptorsHQ was able to get a hold of Brown's "To Do This Season" list and it read like this:

-Somehow get Stephon Marbury to balance getting his teammates involved and being the team's best scorer...

-Get Nate Robinson to concentrate on using his quickness to open up shots for teammates as opposed to trying to dunk on anyone over 6-5...

-Inform Jamal Crawford that the rules in the game of basketball DO allow you to pass the ball...

-Convince Eddy Curry that being over 300 pounds isn't necessarily a good thing...

-Call Phoenix GM Bryan Colangelo and ask him what he did with the real Quentin Richardson...

-"Accidentally" leave Maurice Taylor and Jerome James on the next road trip to Utah where they'd be a big hit with the Mormons...

-Convince Isiah Thomas that with Arnold in trouble in California, he should abandon his post with the Knicks and hit the campaign trail for a governor position...

All jokes aside, with the exception of David Lee and gulp, yes, Channing Frye, this team doesn't have a ton of Larry Brownesque players and has a long way to go. And with no salary relief or high draft picks in sight, it may be a while before there's light at the end of the tunnel. For all of Larry Brown's great coaching abilities, the individual talents that Isiah Thomas has collected just don't mesh well with coach's style.

Indeed whoever first uttered the expression that there is no "I" in team must have had the present manifestation of the New York Knicks in mind.

FRANCHISE