We got screwed by the schedule this week. The Raptors have had 3 full days off since that loss to the Pacers, and I couldn’t think of a better game than against our Atlantic rivals. Full disclosure: I’ve been a Knicks fan since Ewing, McDaniels, Smith, Starks, and Oakley were running rampant. Epic games they would have against the Bulls. Sadly, the Knicks have been a massive disappointment to say the least, but the wheels are in motion, and they are back on the track to respectability.

The Raptors are 2-2 since Calderon has returned to the lineup, and some folks have gone so far as to say that they miss Banks and think he’s a better fit than Jose. While I concede that the Raptors had a great stretch without Jose, long term, this team needs him (or someone he would yield in a trade) in order to have a chance at making any noise. Forgive me if I don’t like our chances in the playoffs with Banks as our backup point guard.

2010 has seen the Knicks come out strong, going 4-2 with an impressive/gritty 112-108 OT win over the Hawks. Yeah, the team that has been eating our lunch all year. Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me as much as it probably should. The Knicks have been stacked with talent for years now, just not enough of the other good stuff to make them a team, but they are coming up. Don’t look now, but they are 2.5 games behind the Raptors in the standings.

I checked in with Curts Skeeter Jr. to get his take on the Knicks and this game, and he had some interesting things to say:

Q: How have your boys been playing of late?
A: The Knicks are on track to make a quality push for a major playoff run. Mike Dantoni has proved that he can coach defense as well as offense. This was evident in our last win where the Knicks needed a quality stop against the 76ers (a contested Rodney Carney three), and the Knicks got the stop and a 93-92 win. David Lee in my opinion should be an all-star.

Q: Tell us about Gallinari.
A: Gallinari is a Larry Bird clone as a shooter, but his overall game could use a lil more polish which will come with confidence.  His first year contributions were limited due to his back (only played 18 games), so technically this is his first lap around the league, and he may still hit the rookie wall at some point.

Q: Keys to beating the Raptors?
A: The Knicks need to speed up the pace, and get to free throw line.  David Lee has to make the Raptor defenders work in the paint and the wings have to make hard cuts to catch the defender off guard.

Q: Any other thoughts on this game?
A: I respectfully think that the Knicks have passed the Raptors talent wise, but have not gotten over the mental edge that Toronto has over us.  This is a big game and I think the Knicks top tier players have to impose their will. If Chandler and Gallinari have good games the win will put us over the top for the next few years.  Keys to winning is confidence and accepting and learning how to deal with success and not accepting mediocrity.

Clearly he hasn’t heard Jack Armstrong and his claims that the Raptors are a top 5 team, talent wise, in the East. I still laugh at that. Sorry, I do. The Raptors have some nice pieces, but there is a reason we’re 19-20. Talent alone in the NBA gets you nothing, just ask Darko Milicic.

So Curts brings up a few good points, namely Gallinari and Lee, both of whom scare the crap out of me. Chances are we’re going to see Bosh on Lee and Bargnani on Gallinari. If our recent history is any indicator, Gallinari is going to have a lot of open looks from beyond the arc. The guy averages 6.6 3pt attempts a game, converting 2.6 of them. The clean looks he is going to get when his check (Bargnani probably) is sent to double whomever, well, it wont be pretty. I just…I just don’t know…Danilo is going to have 32 tonight, I can feel it. Lee on the other hand has owned Bosh over the last few seasons. He gets in the paint, hits that hook, hits his jumpers, grabs every single freaking rebound…man I wish the Raptors had him. Bosh has been playing harder/better/faster/stronger than previous years, so Lee has his work cut out for him.

I also have the bad feeling that when Triano goes small-ball crap-ball with Jack/Calderon/Turkoglu, Chandler is going to have a field day with whoever ends up on him. Neither Jack or Calderon have shown they can cover a solid two-guard when paired with the other this season. Although the Knicks have some nice players, they have no one on this team who warrants a double team. The Raptors need to stay at home with Lee, Gallinari and Harrington, and limit the number of times Chandler or Robinson shake free from their defender. No layups, no excuses. If the Knicks are going to beat us tonight, they should have to do it from the perimeter.

D’Antoni has been playing about 8 deep, over the last few games with the starters playing heavy minutes. This could bode well for the Raptors who haven’t played since Monday. Belinelli/Weems/Wright should get some good burn while Triano figures out what he is doing out there. I like Belinelli and Weems in this kind of game. They will get good looks running back and forth. Wright, not so much, but if he can be a pest, and keep Chandler off center for a few minutes, then I might look past the few bad shots he will heave.

I was worried about this game during the podcast, but after the loss to the Pacers, I am beyond worried. With Dallas and Cleveland up next, the Raptors have to get this one. If the Raptors keep Lee and Jeffries off the glass, take away everything from inside 10 feet away, and slow the pace down, they should take this. That’s easier said then done, but the Knicks don’t have a real presence in the paint. The gamblers have the Knicks at 2.5 point favourites at home, at least we can be happy that the experts think it will be close. I’m betting against the line, but still think the Knicks take it 100-98, this one will come down to the last shot, win or lose.

Don’t forget to join us tonight for Raptor Fan Fridays at the Sports Centre Cafe on St. Clair, we had a great time last week. Some nice folks work there ;)

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