With two teams moving in opposite directions, Sunday’s clash against the New York Knicks seems like a sure thing on paper. And, though it’s always worth remembering that anyone can win against anyone else in the NBA — especially during a weird early game in a spookily quiet Madison Square Garden — it’s hard to see the Knicks being any good with their laundry list of injuries.
Knicks season in a nutshell ♂️ pic.twitter.com/NeTOFVMpU9— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 8, 2017
The Knicks’ top three scorers are all injured — including Kristaps Porzingis, the team’s lone bright spot. That leaves Courtney Lee and a bunch of dad-looking dudes to carry the load. For the Toronto Raptors, the game will be an exercise in effort and professionalism. It’s easy to mail it in against bad teams, but if that happens, the Raps could lose and fall back into the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Washington Wizards.
As long as most of the important guys show up for the Raptors, the Knicks shouldn’t offer much resistance. But, we have been surprised before by the Raptors. Remember, this is the same team that lost both games against the Phoenix Suns this season.
Here are three things to watch for during the matinee.
Kyle Lowry is Still Finding His Legs
Lowry has now been back for two games after missing the previous 21 with a wrist injury. His results really couldn’t be more different. After the first, during which he scored 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting, fans were put at ease that his star will shine just as brightly now as it did before. Then he went home to Toronto and laid an egg, scoring 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting. He did, however, contribute seven rebounds and six assists.
It’s natural that it will take a few games for Lowry to return to his consistent self. Playing against the Knicks, who figure to have Ron Baker at starting point guard, Lowry should get plenty of opportunities to shake off the rust. To put it lightly, the Knicks don’t have anyone that can guard Lowry, so if he doesn’t score effectively, it’ll be clear that he still has some work to do.
Ron Baker is Bad
What is Ron Baker supposed to be good at?
Look, I get that he is an undrafted rookie and it’s not his fault his team has no other salvageable point guards, but this dude is really, really bad. Here are some stats, in case you care about a guy with a future as a good high school coach: 3.9 points and 1.9 assists per game, 37 per cent from the field and a 7.3 player efficiency rating. When he starts, he is just as bad, averaging 5.5 points and 3.2 assists per game.
Ron Baker finished with 2 assists tonight. #Knicks future is in really good hands man.— Ashish Mathur (@amathuropsn) April 7, 2017
Just watch him try to keep up with Lowry.
Get Set for the Playoffs
Look for Dwane Casey to try his guys in different combinations, both as an attempt to work Lowry back in the fold, and to workshop something dynamic against a bad team like the Knicks. The key is going to be solidifying which five guys will be on the court with four minutes left in a close game. Barring foul trouble, I like Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Serge Ibaka.
The Raptors are a team with a ton of depth, which makes roster tweaks so interesting. Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll both deserve to be considered in clutch moments. Given the opponent, Jonas Valanciunas might even earn some minutes down the stretch. If the Knicks somehow keep it close, keep and eye out for who Dwane Casey parades out late.
Where to Watch: TSN 4, 12 p.m. EST