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Raptors host the struggling Knicks: Preview, start time, and more

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Toronto looks to keep their divisional dominance going on Wednesday night, as they face a Knicks team that continues to struggle in all the Knicks ways.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

How do you make a Wednesday matchup against the 4-13 New York Knicks meaningful? How about this fun stat. If the Toronto Raptors win tonight, they’ll officially take over the longest home winning streak against divisional opponents in NBA history.

It’s a staggering thing, that the Raptors have already won 32 straight games against the Sixers, Knicks, Nets, and Celtics at Scotiabank Arena dating back to 2015. The last time they lost at home was, funny enough, against these very Knicks — a team that was taking a break from dysfunction to look solid around the core of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

Of course, we all know what eventually happened there. The Knicks are a nonstop source of hilarious headlines, continually taking one step forward in personnel, then taking two steps back at the request of their doofus owner. This week, New York was in the news for using their PR arm to protest a Richard Jefferson claim that in 2018, he decided he’d rather retire than play for the Knicks and extend his career. You know, basketball stuff.

Still, even with the circus around him, Wednesday is a homecoming for RJ Barrett, who’s looked well-rounded since taking the reigns of the Knicks this season. Averaging just over 15 points on 41.3% shooting and 34.7% from three, Barrett already looks like he belongs in the NBA. Now the hope is he can refine his game while playing in Madison Square Garden, a feat many have fallen short of.

For one night, we’ll get to see how it plays out in Toronto. Here are the game details.

Where to Watch:

TSN, 7:30 PM ET

Lineups:

Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

New York — RJ Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson

Injuries:

Toronto — Dewan Hernandez (out - thumb), Serge Ibaka (doubtful - ankle), Stanley Johnson (out - groin), Kyle Lowry (out - thumb), Patrick McCaw (out - knee), Matt Thomas (out - finger)

New York — Elfrid Payton (out - hamstring), Reggie Bullock (out - back)

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Play Hard

I’m not sure I’ve watched a team better at shutting down the opposition’s best player than the Toronto Raptors. We’re only one night removed from them holding Joel Embiid scoreless for the first time in his career, a stat only made better by this fixating Stephen A. clip.

It’s not just Embiid. Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo — they’ve all had inefficient lines against this creative, effortful Raptors defense, which leads the league in opponents field goal percentage and is sixth in defensive rating.

The Knicks? They’re not a good offensive team by the numbers. Twenty-ninth in offensive rating (103.4) and in the bottom five in effective field goal percentage, the Knicks can be a brick factory on a good night, and with so many young pieces, they haven’t meshed enough to play as a team. Their assist rate of 55.2% is the fourth-lowest in the association, only worsted by Cleveland and two teams who are isolating on purpose — Houston and Portland.

The point I’m trying to make is the Raptors need to be up for this one. I’m not so concerned with how they can stop the Knicks, but as long as they give enough of a shit, it probably won’t be too difficult to shut down this team for a stretch and build a lead.

Rebound

The one thing the Knicks do well — exceedingly well, in fact — is get offensive rebounds. Second in the league in offensive rebound percentage at 30.0%, the Knicks young and physical frontline of Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Mitchell Robinson, and Bobby Portis can get after the glass with tenacity.

Is this stat inflated a bit by how many shots they miss? Sure, but the Raptors have had well-known troubles finishing possessions with rebounds — something that haunted them against Philadelphia on Monday as the Sixers had 14 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Raptors 51-40.

There’s a good chance the Knicks will miss the second shot anyway, but the Raptors give a shit metre has to be high here too. Finish a possession with a rebound, and try to force some transition the other way.

Break the Knicks

The Raptors have already forced Portland to self-examine and sign Carmelo Anthony to prop up their offense. Next up, they should break the Knicks.

New York is on the razor’s edge of firing David Fizdale, who hasn’t proven able to put anything resembling an identity on this young Knicks team. James Dolan and Steve Mills also regularly make the coach a goat for poor starts in New York, and at 4-13 it’s starting to feel like the sweet spot to make a chance.

A major loss to the Raptors could be the push that the Knicks need. So, in a way, we’re helping!