Tuesday, March 20th 7:30 P.M. ET
Toronto Raptors vs. New York Knicks
The Knicks look to continue their hot play under interim coach Mike Woodson, going for their 4th straight victory against the Toronto Raptors. The Knicks and Raptors have split the first 2 games of the season series, with each team winning on the others home court. The Knicks currently sit 8th in the Eastern Conference going into the game tonight with Toronto looking at another visit to the lottery. This is the beginning to an important stretch of games for the Knicks this week, who look to climb their way back to .500 and firmly place themselves back in the playoff picture.
-Come out Firing
Hot starts and not falling behind big early have been a catalyst for the Knicks during their 3 game win streak. The Raptors are a lottery bound team with not much to play for, so the Knicks have to come out in front of the home crowd and put them away early.
The last game against the Raptors, a 90-87 Knicks victory, the Knicks came out flat, trailing virtually the whole game. Without a ferocious 4th quarter comeback behind Jeremy Lin and a great defensive effort, the outcome of that game would have been much different.
Carmelo Anthony was not active for that game, which should boost the Knicks this time around. Through the 3 games with Woodson as head coach, Anthony has come out aggressive and attacking early in games. This allows the Knicks to set the pace and tempo they want to play at and putting opponents in an early holes.
Baron Davis will not be with the Knicks tonight, meaning Mike Bibby should see some minutes off the bench. Bibby played well in replacement duty against the Pacers, giving the Knicks a solid 10 minutes of play off the bench. Look for Iman Shumpert to also be given some time at Point Guard, with J.R. Smith also bringing the ball up when needed. These players will help take pressure off Jeremy Lin, who has looked refreshed the past few games along with the rest of his Knicks teammates.
Hearing nothing Tyson Chandler’s injury is a good thing. He seemed to be struggling and even hurting the team at first, but seems to have figured things out. Losing Chandler for an extended period of time would be a blow the Knicks could not overcome, seeing as they were dominated in the paint in the 2 games Chandler sat out. Chandler is the heart and soul of the Knicks defense.
The Knicks bench has been outstanding since Mike Woodson took over. J.R. Smith has finally found his stroke, and Steve Novak has continued his lights out shooting. The defensive intensity brought my Iman Shumpert and Jared Jeffries is a catalyst not only for the 2nd unit but the team as a whole. When the Knicks play defense, it makes their offense that much better.
The Raptors do not have a strong bench unit, so look for the Knicks reserves to take advantage with the minutes they are given. We have seen a lot of them in recent games, and have relished in their opportunities. The more bench we see, the better the team will be because it means the Knicks have a big enough lead to rest their stars.