The compartmentalization of a shortened season was bound to lead to some strange looking weeks, and the Toronto Raptors are in the midst of one.
After consecutive losses against the Knicks and Bulls, the Raptors go into this weekend with games against the exact same teams. They welcome the Knicks to the Air Canada Center tonight and Sasha Kalra previews the action.
They started off by playing the Knicks in New York on Tuesday, flew back to face the Bulls in Toronto, and now take on the Knickbockers again tonight in Toronto before flipping the script, and heading to Chicago to take on...
So what's the plan for tonight?
Well, other than hoping for another loss to help the team's tanking efforts (Sacramento, Golden State and Washington all lost last night, although New Orleans did win), it would be great to see the Dinos, compete for four quarters.
In a season which many of the team's previous faults have been ruthlessly exposed, the Knicks comprehensively defeated the Raps earlier this week and considering Toronto's collapse on Wednesday against Chicago, well, it would seem that an absolutely huge team performance would be the only way to reverse another such result. As Adam Francis pointed out in his recap of that game, sometimes you just can't compete with a team that has more talent than you, and the Knicks clearly have more talent than the Raptors.
The feel-good factor Jeremy Lin's rise to prominence brought New York was shortly-lived, and their woes resulted in a coaching change. Mike Woodson has stepped in and has a perfect record 5-0 so far. The same players that were throwing up contested jump shots 5 seconds into the shot clock are sharing the ball with each other and hustling for loose balls that they might have thought twice about earlier.
The biggest change has been the play of Carmelo Anthony, as he has looked like an inspired man since the coaching change.
Here are some keys that the Dinos should keep in mind if they intend on halting the tank for a night:
1) Get the Crowd on Your Side: This is probably the most pathetic key I've ever written so bear with me here. The last time the Knicks came to town Linsanity was at its high point as a Valentines Day game in an uninteresting season sold out. The hoards of Knicks fans that made their presence known as Jeremy Lin hit a game winner will all be in attendance tomorrow, and this isn't even taking into account the star power of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Josh Harrellson. The Dinos need to come out strong and play to the crowd so that some people remember that they're actually Raptors fans. That would change the dynamic of the arena and likely tip the scale their way.
2) Protect the Paint: Last time these teams met Toronto's big men were comprehensively decimated by the combination of Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks' twin towers got whatever they wanted around the rim and freed up space for their perimeter gunslingers. The Dinos need to limit offensive rebounding and contest shots down low to win the battle in the paint.
3) Jose Calderon: With Jerryd Bayless currently listed as day-to-day his participation in tonight's game is doubtful. The onus will be on Jose Calderon, himself recently returning from an injury, to log heavy minutes against a carousel of Knicks point guards. Jeremy Lin, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas (remember him?) have all spent time handling the ball this year with the different combinations that the Knicks would play. Calderon infamously let Lin shoot that wide open 3 pointer to win the last time the Knicks were in town and he should be fired up to give a better account of himself tonight.