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3 In the Key: Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. New York

Since the All-Star break the Raps have had a string of injuries to deal with so the past few days of rest couldn't have come at a better time.

With CB4 ready to return to the floor the Raps go head-to-head with Atlantic Division rival the New York Knicks tonight at the ACC.

Chris Bosh is reportedly going to be back in the line-up tonight.

Good thing. This team desperately needs its leader back.

For those who have sat through the past handful of games from beginning to end (I can't imagine there are many of you), it has become crystal clear that this team will only go as far as Chris Bosh can take them. This team, in particular its offense, is build around the guy wearing number 4 on his jersey.

During his absence the team struggled mightily. The offense looked completely out of sorts, the defense looked similar to that played back in November and the team just wasn't playing with any fire.

Hell, the only guy that truly impressed during CB4's absence was Marcus Banks.

Now I am not totally convinced that the past handful of games is a perfect measuring stick for how this team will fare next season should Bosh take his All-Star services elsewhere, but this team is weaker without it's current franchise player.

Since Bosh's last game a lot has changed. Rather than comfortably sitting in the fifth spot in the East the Raptors are now only a half game up on both Chicago and Milwaukee. This wouldn't be such a concern if the Raps had an easy schedule ahead - but they don't. The Raps are now going to be battling it out with a handful of teams just to make the playoffs.

Given how the standings look, it now becomes absolutely essential for the Raps to get wins against inferior opponents.

Enter the Knicks.

Since the deadline the Knicks have mortgaged their future for the opportunity to sign one (or possibly two) of this summers big free-agents. There is definitely no guarantee that Dwyane Wade, Lebron James or Chris Bosh end up in New York and if I am a Knicks fan stories like this one scare the living daylights out of me. You have to believe Donnie Walsh didn't sacrifice everything for Joe Johnson. If he did, would the Knicks have been better served by keeping Isaiah Thomas around?

This summer will obviously be an interesting one but back to the task at hand. Right now it's almost impossible to accurately predict what New York Knicks team will show-up tonight. Just looking at the last three games I see a team that lost by 11 to Memphis, lost by 31 to the Cavs and then destroyed the Pistons by 24. It's not so much who they beat and who they lost to that I find surprising, but rather the massive point differentials.

On to the three key's to tonight's game.

1. Attack the T-Mac: McGrady has been incredibly inconsistent since was dealt to the Knicks. On some night's he reminds you of the All-Star he once was and on others he looks like the worn-down player that he is. Currently his minutes are limited and the Raps need to ensure that in those minutes he doesn't find a rhythm. Some hard-nosed defense against this former Raptor will go a long way. Cue Antoine Wright, who based on our most recent poll should be the starting two-guard for the Raps.

2. Don't Make Bosh Go It Alone: Bosh has been out of action and it would be unfair to expect him to carry the team to victory. Other guys need to help him out and play much better. I fully expect Jarrett Jack to have a solid night with Bosh back on the floor creating space but players like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan have to contribute more than they have as of late. Getting a yeoman's effort out of the bench would go a long way to securing the W.

3. Get On Them Early: If the Knick's past three games tell me anything it's that if you can get out to a size-able lead they are likely to fold. Allowing this team to feel confident is simply not an option. When they start seeing the ball go in the hoop players like Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler can light it up. The defense must be better tonight or it could be another loss - a loss that could come back and haunt them when the end of the season rolls around.