Following a tumultuous end to 2016 and start of 2017, the Toronto Raptors have showed their fans that they can now lift their fingers off the panic button.
Wins this week over a pair of divisional opponents in the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets have restored order in the Atlantic and now Toronto has the opportunity to grab its third straight win with the New York Knicks in town for a Sunday matinee.
If you’re not out at the theatre or visiting your grandparents, here are three things to watch for:
The Porzingod is mortal:
The Knicks will likely be without star forward Kristaps Porzingis when they invade the Air Canada Centre. The Latvian phenom is dealing with lingering pain in his left Achilles and vows not to rush back before he’s ready.
This is obviously good news for the Raptors, but this means Raptors fans won’t be able to get a first-hand look at the youngster until next season (unless these teams meet in the playoffs). For the season, Porzingis is averaging 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting better than 40 per cent from three-point range.
Defend the arc:
On Friday night, the Raptors allowed the Nets to annoyingly hang around for most of the evening. That was due in large part to Toronto’s porous perimeter defence. All told, the Raptors surrendered 17 three-pointers to Brooklyn, allowing them to shoot 47 per cent from long distance. For context, the Sacramento Kings give up a league-worst 11.1 triples to opponents on average.
That can’t happen again. And it shouldn’t considering the Knicks rank as a middle-of-the-pack squad in terms of threes made per game and three-point shooting percentage. But the Nets typically don’t shoot the ball well from deep and they put on a show, so you never know.
DeMar DeRozan loves playing against the Knicks. Aside from the blown 360 dunk a couple years back, the soon-to-be three-time all-star feasts on Knick defence. For his career, DeRozan averages 20.7 points per game versus New York. That figure is third-highest amongst all opponents. The sample size is clearly large enough considering these teams square off four times per season. DeRozan’s last four games have been monstrous and look for that to continue on Sunday.
Where to Watch: TSN 4/5, 3:00 PM ET