Kyrie Irving

Certain events make you perk up and take notice at the goings-on of a winning team. New York, a team flush with talent, who found a gem keeping the pine warm, with quality talent from 1 through 10, who only needed to change the voice on the bench to get back to playing basketball worthy of a playoff team are relevant for the second time in the same season.

After running D’Antoni out of town, Carmelo has decided (or rather was forced) to play with pride and conviction; not taking any possessions off. Not a great deal has changed with Woodson taking the helm, except the prima-donna winning the power struggle and realizing there are no more excuses; ladies and gentlemen, I present you the Knicks.

After getting their assess handed to them on Wednesday, the Raptors have a chance at restitution on their home-court to bring the season series even at two a piece.

Areas of focus:

  • Need to be aggressive defending that high pick-and-roll against Lin and Stoudemire. Calderon, who played a staggering 40 minutes on his first game back from injury, is going to have a hell of a time keeping Lin under wraps. With Bayless potentially out (or playing injured), he’s going to be called on for heavy minutes again, and needs to really make Lin work for everything. He’s going to need to fight through screens aggressively, and hope he gets some help on the hedge from Bargnani or Gray (or Amir or Davis). He can get some back on offense, by forcing boy wonder to contend and play on his heals.
  • Defensive rotations need to be tight, and smooth. Far too often, when Stoudemire went at Bargnani, the other big would rotate, and no one would pick up Chandler who licked his lips at being open under the rim.
  • The Knicks are 10 deep, meaning they have 5-guys who can come in, and change the complexion of the game; especially on the wing where the Raptors haven’t been so weak in recent memory. Again, if Bayless is playing, it changes things for the Raptors, but a bench rotation of Forbes, Kleiza and Butler makes me hate basketball something fierce.
  • Q: You know what I loved about DeRozan on Wednesday against the Bulls? A: He curled off that high screen, caught the pass, and kept going to the rack; on multiple plays. This is the kind of Rip Hamilton basketball I love seeing from shooting guards. His 17 against the Knicks was so utterly ineffectual, it has Arse dropping giving his life-sized DeRozan blowup doll the camel clutch in rage. Lets see him attack the Knick defense in the paint more than five-times tonight.
  • Protect the glass; I mean seriously. We have four forwards, who are tall, mobile and athletic (Gray not so much), and the Knicks dominated the offensive glass 16-4. For those who were counting, that translated in exactly 12 more possession…Raptors lost by 19, you do the math.
  • Where the hell is Bargnani? I realize he missed a ton of games via injury, but in the eight games since his return, he’s averaging 12.5pts 4.8rebs 2.1ast on 33.7% from the field and 14.3% from beyond the arc. This is unacceptable, and leads me to believe that he’s either not fully recovered from his injury, or has reverted to his limp noodle ways.

The Knicks are 5.5 point favourites tonight, and if Bayless isn’t ready to go, it’s going to take a full-team, full-48 effort to defend home court. Since those types of efforts have been few and far between, my monies on New York to put this away by the 4th; Knicks by 13.

Photo Credit: Chris Chambers/Getty Images