Hoops fans in the Big Apple must be feeling like they’re in a bad dream and can’t wake up. The Brooklyn Nets’ record is a dismal 9-19, and the New York Knicks likewise! Both teams were expected to contend for the Eastern Conference championship and a berth in the NBA finals, yet both are colossal disappointments, with talk of firing coaches rife. The Knicks’ tumble must be particularly aggravating after winning the Atlantic Division with a 54-28 record last season.
The Toronto Raptors, who face the Knicks tonight in Manhattan and tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre, have remade themselves into road warriors. They should be the favorites tonight, and can certainly grab a win from the injury-riddled and confused Knicks if they:
- Deny Carmelo Anthony the ball. When he does get it, stay in front of him. Carmelo is the Knicks’ version of Rudy Gay, an offensive ball-stopper (albeit a more reliable shooter). The Knicks’ offense is a scrambled mess. How can they justify letting Iman Shumpert start 27 times, he of the 6+ points and 2 assists in 27+ minutes per game? If Carmelo isn’t scoring, they have no one to turn to. Andrea Bargnani is their second-leading scorer(!), but at 14+ points and 28.9% from distance, is hardly a major threat. [20-second timeout: Carmelo didn't dress against OKC on Christmas Day because of a sore ankle, and is listed as "questionable" for tonight.]
- Get the ball inside, early. Then kick it out. The Knicks don’t close out on shooters, they gave up thirteen 3-balls to the Thunder.
- Take it to the hoop. The Knicks’ only rim-protector of note is Tyson Chandler, who’s a 3-time All-NBA Defensive Selection. Get him in foul trouble, and/or tire him out, and the Knicks will struggle to stop the Raps’ paint penetration. There’s little help available on New York’s bench; both Amar’e Stoudamire and Metta World Peace are injury-hobbled ghosts of their former dominating selves.
Toronto finds itself atop the so-called Titanic Division due to the ineptitude of their rivals. It’s time to be the leader on merit, not because we’re the least bad. This is a statement game, which the Raptors will win by a 107-94 count.
We might see: Steve Novak get a chance to drain some 3-balls against the team that traded him to the Raps…Rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. cause Toronto some trouble…a lot of angry Knicks fans make their displeasure known (bags on heads perhaps?)
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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