Nothing like two different, equally gut-punching losses to reset expectations after a 5-0 start to the season. The Raptors' schedule is very road-heavy to begin the season, so taking advantage of home opportunities like tonight will be paramount to staying afloat as the calendar takes its toll. DeMarre Carroll's status is unknown for this game, and his absence could be especially felt against Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks have gotten off to a 3-4 start, but given lessened expectations, people seem to be taking the performances in stride in the Big Apple. Jerian Grant, Langston Galloway and Kristaps Porzingis have all shown flashes of promise that have Knicks fans dreaming of a brighter future. With Anthony, Robin Lopez and a couple of other solid rotations pieces still around, the Knicks should provide a stern test for the potentially depleted Raptors.
Things to Watch For:
1) Riga to Vilnius
I'm a sucker for weird geographical storylines, and having our eastern Europeans battle would definitely qualify. Latvia and Lithuania are both small, basketball-crazed countries (Latvia less so) right next to each other, so Porzingis and Jonas Valanciunas will be doing battle in international play for years to come. This will offer us our first chance to see them matched up against one other from time to time, and I wonder if their Baltic connection brings out the best in them.
2) So, what do the Raps do about Carmelo?
With Carroll possibly missing another game, this roster isn't exactly equipped to deal with big small forwards. I imagine we'll see our fair share of James Johnson, but it's too bad we don't have Anthony-Stopper Landry Fields on the squad anymore. It would be nice if Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross found some semblance of form to give the Raptors a punch off the bench. Remember, Ross has three points in three games, and has hit one shot since signing his extension. Patterson, too, has a mere nine points in his last four games, and for a bench that lacks a scoring punch, that's simply not good enough.
3) Lowry and DeRozan
More often than not, this team can get bailed out of a poor collective performance if Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan decide to put the team on their backs. Unfortunately, the game against the Heat was a perfect storm of bad Lowry and bad DeRozan, and that played a part in the poor result as well. They shot 9-30 between them and had 8 turnovers. Instead of calming the team down, they rushed to get ugly, contested shots time and again. Matched up against Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic, they have to be much, much better.
Where to Watch: Sportsnet One, 7:30 PM EST