How quickly fortunes can change in the NBA. At this time last year, the Toronto Raptors were finishing their fifth straight year outside the playoffs, while the New York Knicks were concluding a 54-win campaign as Atlantic Division champions. Now it’s the Raps who are gearing up for the post-season, while the Knicks are out. Madison Square Garden may be filled with boobirds. The Knicks haven’t won a championship since 1971, and won’t break that Maple Leafs-grade streak of futility with the current roster. Phil Jackson has been hired as President, and change is afoot. A win means nothing to the Knicks, but a great deal to the Raps, who can nail down the #3 seed.
This game borders on the completely unpredictable. Chicago’s game with Charlotte begins an hour earlier, and one assumes Raps coach Dwane Casey will be intensely interested in the score of that match. If he learns at half time that the Bobcats have won, don’t be surprised if our starters never see the floor after intermission. The Raps will be #3, so why risk injury?
The Knicks defeated the Raps last Friday night when the bruised and battered Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire both played excellent offensive games. Toronto won the previous two matches. ‘Melo has been shut down due to a shoulder injury, but Stoudemire scored 14 points against Brooklyn last night.
I’m going to depart from my usual format, and discuss what the Raps would like to achieve, beyond a victory.
- a return to form for Terrence Ross. His 3-point shot has been more miss than hit lately. Other elements of his game are improving; he’s shown some sharp passing skills, and grabbed 3 steals against Milwaukee. However, TRoss still isn’t demonstrating a consistent ability to attack the paint. He needs to think less about a slam dunk and more about a pull-up jumper.
- better shooting from Patrick Patterson. He hasn’t been sharp since his return from injury, although he’s still defending admirably.
- quality minutes for Steve Novak. He can be a game-changer in the playoffs, but not if he’s rusty.
I’ll take a flyer on a score: Toronto 98 – New York 93.
Tags: Toronto Raptors