The Raptors did a good job of temporarily quelling all of our anxiety after the horrific loss to the Bulls by beating a tough Memphis Grizzlies squad last night. After the differing opinions on what the Raptors could/should have done during the trade deadline, the reality must now set in that this is the squad we're left with for the remainder of the season, for better or for worse. Despite all the understandable apprehension about this team's playoff pedigree, it's important to remember that the Raptors are 15-3 in their last 18 games, and are comfortably 2nd in the East, 4 games behind the Cavaliers and 4.5 games up on the 3rd place Celtics.
The Knicks, after a promising start that had them in the mix for a playoff spot, are now trending in the wrong direction. After going 2-8 in their last 10 games, and their lack of depth rearing its ugly head due to injuries, the Knicks very much remain a project for the future. Much-maligned Kurt Rambis has taken over for Derek Fisher, and the transition will presumably take some time to manifest into something positive. They seem to be fully healthy for tonight's game though, as Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez looked spry and effective in their win against the Timberwolves.
Things to Watch For:
Much has been made of the ineffectiveness of the Raptors immobile big combination in the starting lineup. Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas' incompatibility is only further exacerbated by James Johnson's inability to provide any sort of spacing on the offensive end. Tonight, the Knicks stand a good chance to do some damage against the Raptor starting lineup with their trio of Kristaps Porzingis, Lopez and Melo. How quickly Dwane Casey pulls the plug and inserts Patrick Patterson could play a big role in deciding the outcome of this game.
Jose Calderon vs. Kyle Lowry
It seems eons ago that Lowry lost his starting spot to Calderon. Their careers have gone in opposite directions since the end of that season (Lowry's first in Toronto). Calderon now plays the role of old mentor and floor spacer. Lowry needs to absolutely dominate this matchup, as there's probably no bigger advantage on the floor for the Raptors than the battle between Calderon and Lowry.
The Raptors boast one of the best 5-man units in the league when they trot out the lineup of Lowry + the bench. The Knicks, with their limited depth, will be tested once the bench units roll in. For them, Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas have been a surprisingly effective pairing, with both of them playing slight variations of the Terrence Ross role. They both shoot over 37% from 3 point range and are reasonably efficient players overall, and have both had their moments against the Raptors in the past. It would be very on-brand for the Raptors to lose the game on a random explosion by Lance Thomas and the like.
Where to Watch: TSN 4/5, 7:30 PM EST