This coming game, if Dwane Casey is to be believed, is just as important as the last game the Raptors played. That statement certainly seems improbable. The Celtics, who the Raptors matched up against on Tuesday, are the Raptors’ direct competition for the East’s 1st seed. The Knicks, who they face today, are a non-playoff team on a downward trend.
However, Dwane Casey is the greatest coach in Raptors history and it is far from my place to doubt him. In fact, as this game is clearly equally important to Tuesday’s it is my sacred duty to try to equal the novelesque yet excellent game preview put forth prior to the Celtics’ game.
And we should all remember this sentiment:
you better start respecting dwane casey right this instant— harsh (@IamHarshDave) February 7, 2018
Here are details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 7:30 PM ET
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
New York - Jarrett Jack, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley, Kyle O’Quinn
Toronto - None
New York - Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter, Ron Baker, Joakim Noah
Who Plays for the Knicks?
Unfortunately, my job is made much easier by the fact that the Knicks have made themselves quite newsworthy in recent days. I say unfortunately as the most newsworthy Knicks related item is, of course, the injury recently suffered by Knicks’ All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis came down awkwardly following his rather vicious one-handed posterization of Giannis Antetokounmpo and was helped off the court. He would later undergo an MRI revealing he had suffered a torn ACL, an injury which will likely sideline him for a full year.
The Knicks year has already been riddled by injuries, they notably lost key free agent acquisition Tim Hardaway Jr. for an extended stretch, but this is the cherry on top of a truly wretched sundae. It has been incredibly fun to watch Porzingis grow into an All-Star over the past two and a half years, he was one of the lone bright spots on a perpetually bad Knicks team. To lose him for a whole year sucks. It sucks a whole lot.
New York Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 7, 2018
But we’re not done! The Knicks will not only be missing their best player, but their second best player and some key bench players as well. In addition to Porzingis, the Knicks will be without Enes Kanter and Ron Baker. Kanter had been riding a hot stretch recently, he was averaging around 16 points and 12 rebounds on 62% shooting over his last 15 games, but he will get this game off to recover from oral surgery. There was a time when the Knicks would have relied upon Willy Hernangomez to absorb Kanter’s minutes, but the talented young Spaniard was dealt just yesterday to the Hornets for a pair of 2nd round picks. With Joakim Noah away from the team following a dispute at practice, Kyle O’Quinn appears primed to play all 48 minutes, as he is the only real centre left on the roster.
That is, of course, assuming O’Quinn is not also traded prior to the game.
Opposing executives say the Knicks continue to take calls on center Kyle O’Quinn and guard Courtney Lee. New York is also still trying to trade Joakim Noah as well.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 7, 2018
Yes, today is deadline day, and the Knicks, already ravaged by injuries, could be losing a few more rotation pieces prior to tonight’s game. Courtney Lee, O’Quinn, Noah and Lance Thomas have been the names most frequently brought up as candidates to be moved by the Knicks before 3pm. The Raptors, on the other hand, have limited needs and assets and do not appear primed for an active deadline.
Beware the Explosive Third Quarter
The battered Knicks still have the means to be annoying and the Raps would do well not to take them lightly. Tim Hardaway Jr. averages seven 3-point shots per game — what if this is the game they all go in? The Knicks may have lost their only All-Star, but they also still have Michael Beasley, their MVP candidate. The “walking bucket” has cooled down since January, a month in which he averaged 16 points per game, but he can get hot in a hurry. The Raptors should at least keep an eye open.
And lest we forget, Courtney Lee sparked the worst quarter in Raps franchise history with a one man run back in November, what if he duplicates that? It seems unlikely this version of New York will go on another 28-0 run to kill the Raptors, but we should at least prepare for the worst, right?
Just Play Your Game
Now, let us put the above section of paranoid warnings aside. For the Knicks to win they would almost certainly need to be the beneficiaries of either extreme serendipity or total nonchalance on the part of Raptors.
This game may have all the makings of a “trap game” but I do not believe the Raptors to be primed for a letdown. The Raptors are not just an excellent team in perfect health, this is a team that was picking up full court in the 4th quarter of a blowout just one game ago. They have had good habits drilled into them throughout the season and have rarely relinquished them for long enough to be beaten by a bottom dweller. They’re the only team ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating, they’ve recently had several strong shooting performances, and their stars (particularly Kyle Lowry) have looked very good as of late.
Just execute, play your game, and it’ll be fine.