Toronto Raptors New York Knicks December 8, 2010

There isn’t a whole lot left to say. This will be a short pre-game, but before getting into it, I had a chance to speak to Mike from Knickerblogger:

Two player of the weeks awards early in the season, with no sign of letting up. Stoudemire is excelling as the focal point of the Knicks rebuilding. Helps that he’s playing in D’Antoni’s system, but he’s playing a pretty solid all around game. Can you talk about his impact to this team?
I said it earlier in the season, but Amar’e differs from David Lee in that he can affect the game on multiple levels. He can take on more of a scoring burden, and he can block shots. David Lee was great in a few key areas, but Stoudemire provides more ways that he can help the team.

Felton is playing pretty damn good, the guys at Wages of Win him accounting for 13 Knicks wins this season. To put things in perspective, Stoudemire is projected to to contribute 3 for some reason (Landry Fields, my favourite Knick, is slotted for 15). What do you think about that article, is it just numbers, or is there some merit to it?
Hey a ‘u’ in favourite. We don’t get that much down here. Seriously though, with how statistics are currently kept in the NBA, I’d be skeptical of anyone saying they can account for a precise number of wins a player contributes. Each system, be it Hollinger, Berri, or Pelton’s, has their own method of rating players which comes with it’s own strengths and weaknesses. You can gauge a metric by looking at it’s leaders and seeing what type of players that system prefers or dislikes. For my tastes, Berri’s metrics overvalue highly efficient yet low volume scorers, and strong rebounders. I believe earlier this year it had Reggie Evans as one of the top NBA players, which is why it would value Fields and Felton higher than Amar’e.

I expected the Knicks to do well this season (13-9 to start the year); the schedule seemed light (2 wins against the Raptors for example), but a 7 game road winning streak is nothing to shake a stick at. This next stretch of the schedule will go a long way in answering this questions, but how good is this team really?
The next 10 games are going to be tough. They play Eastern Conference rivals Orlando, Boston, Chicago, and Miami twice, in addition to Western brutes Denver and Oklahoma. I don’t see them winning 9 of 10 from that group, and those games will certainly test their mettle.

After showing so much promise, Anthony Randolph has been an absolute bust; what’s the problem.
For lack of a better analogy, he’s like a 10 year old Kevin Garnett. He’s got a great physical body so defense and rebounding comes pretty naturally. However like your pre-teen year old nephew, he’s clueless on offense. He has some tools, but he looks lost out there, unsure what to do. It’s like he’s never been coached before. I wouldn’t write off his NBA career just yet, but it appears that he’s in D’Antoni’s doghouse for now.

What a great draft pick Landry Fields has been. I just recently picked him up in my fantasy league, and he’s been a star for me. What’s this kids upside?
The best comparison I’ve heard is Josh Childress, but I want to say his ceiling is a guard-forward version of Shawn Marion. There are only 5 players in the modern (three point) era who have averaged 8 or more rebounds per 36 minutes: Fat Lever, Jason Kidd, T.R. Dunn, Darrell Walker, and Tyrone Corbin. Right now Landry Fields is at 8.8 reb/36, which would be the third highest. Much like Marion was early on, he’s a weak three point shooter (30.2%), which of course hurts him in D’Antoni’s offense. If he can bring that up to a respectable level or higher, he’ll be an off the ball nightmare for opposing defenses.

Keys to the Game

Perimeter Defense
The Raptors were amazingly poor at defending the Knicks out on the perimeter on Sunday. Some of that has to do with the Knicks playing some pretty good ball, but the fact remains that perimeter defense is a huge concern for us.

Doesn’t even matter that the Raptors play good defense in the paint when it rains down like that. Felton needs to be paid special attention; he penetrated at will (without trying very hard I might add), drew a half-assed double and kicked it out behind the arc for open look-after-look, 29 to be exact. About a third of their shots were very good looks behind the arc, not good.

I have a solution, and if it doesn’t work the Raptors aren’t any worse off; DeRozan and Weems don’t need to leave their men to help defensively (they should crash the boards though, Landry grabbed 10 from the SG spot), it’s not like they help a great deal when they do. If they must leave their man, they should let someone know wtf they are planning so their check doesn’t get a 2 second look while getting set to launch it.

Get Good Shots
As much as they’ve improved this year, the Knicks are still not a defensive team. They don’t have the folks to shut anyone on the Raptors down, which Bayless proved with his 23 off the bench. I understand this incarnation of the Raptors likes a faster pace, but they don’t have great finishers like the Knicks (Amar’e). When you get into an up-and-down game against a D’Antoni team, and you don’t convert opportunities in transition, things get out of control quickly.

Not everything has to be one-and-done; move the ball around, find the guy flashing on the break (hopefully he converts), pick-and-roll/pop some, be smart about it. My biggest qualm with this Young Onez direction is that some fundamental aspects of the game are being overlooked in the name of developing players who may or may not be worthy of the investment. Name me another team that gives carte Blanche to their players to take whatever shot they want, and continue to afford them every chance when they play like crap. I come down hard on Bargnani very regularly, but at least he’s producing.

My finger is pointed right at Kleiza, Weems and DeRozan who are taking and missing gawdawful shots. What the eff happened to all that athleticism????

Sorry, bit of a rant but it’s tough to play a solid game when guys who should be concerned about taking it to the rack off a curl are directing the offense much more than they should.

GIVE THE FRIGGING BALL TO CALDERON AND RUN AROUND UNTIL YOU GET THE BALL BACK. THE GUY LIKES TO PASS, AND DOES A BETTER JOB AT IT THAN YOU DO.

Ok, I’m good now.

Get to the Line, and Convert
11-22 on Sunday was just ridiculous, I pulled out handfuls of my hair watching that. The Knicks don’t have that last line of defense at the rim. Sure, they have a couple guys who can swat the ball into the crowd, but Amir and Bargnani do a better job of defending the paint. I guess the key to getting to the line is attacking the rim, and last game the Raptors took 36 shots from outside 16 feet, only converting 13. On the flip side, they went 25-51 from inside 15 feet, with Amir, Jerryd and Bargnani accounting for 28 of those attempts (hitting 19 of them) [source]. I’m no statophile, but my rudimentary statistical analysis leads me to believe that the Raptors do better when the ball gets closer to the rim, and only a few players are making that effort.

The Line

The Knicks are a 6-7 point favourite, depending on the book, with an over/under of 220.5, so expect a fast paced game.

My post here is a bit negative, but I think the Raptors win this one. Not because they do anything well, but because the Knicks have already won the first two games, so Toronto is due. It’s also been a while where everyone hits their shots that we all forget about the problems this team has.

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