Gameday: Knicks @ Raptors, Feb. 22

Let the Bassy Telfair era begin.

After a reasonably quiet trade deadline that saw the Raptors (22-33) add some much needed depth at the point guard position in the form of one Sebastian Telfair, the Raps will welcome the division-leading New York Knicks (32-19) to the ACC for their second matchup in just over a week. The last matchup was the two teams’ first encounters with one another this season and featured a gutty 92-88 Raptors win in which DeMar and Alan Anderson shined while the more highly touted Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay wallowed. Apparently Carmelo was nursing an injury during the last matchup, and so he should be better tonight (it’s tough to envision him going 7 for 21 again), so the Raptors will need to put forth a strong team effort to pull off the upset, even on their home court and with recent history on their side.

This season, the Knicks have morphed into a European-style three-point shooting team under the tutelage of Mike Woodson, and while the focal point of their offense is undeniably Anthony, it’ll be on the Raptor wings to contain the other Knick shooters when they get their opportunities. As you can see from the tale of the tape below, the Raps have been reasonably strong at controlling the number of 3-pointers their opponents take, so that’s a good sign. In order for their defensive rotations to be effective, though, there’ll be plenty of strain on the Raptor bigs down low to contain Tyson Chandler on the pick-and-roll and offensive rebounding, which could be problematic for Bargnani (I’d prefer to see him matched up in a 1-on-1 defensive situation on the outside – maybe he could do some work on Carmelo, though DeMar, Gay, and Anderson all did a good job containing him last week). Expect to see a hefty helping of Aaron Gray when Amir needs a blow, though I’d imagine the Raptors will go small more often than not to counteract the Knicks’ “Anthony at PF” look.

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: New York 111.5 (3rd), Toronto 107.0 (12th)
D-Rating: New York 107.0 (16th), Toronto 108.1 (23rd)
Pace: New York 92.6 (24th), Toronto 92.3 (26th)
Strength: Both Ball Control (New York 1st, Toronto 2nd), New York Three-Point Shooting (2nd in makes, 6th in 3FG%), Toronto Guarding Threes (6th fewest opponent attempts/game)
Weakness: Toronto Opponent Points in Paint (26th), New York Opponent Shooting at Rim (23rd)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry, Sebastian Telfair and John Lucas III v. Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni
The Knicks are a tough team to slot, as you could make a case for Jason Kidd to be included here, but he’s been starting at shooting guard and is more of a Steve Kerr type at this point in his career than anything else. Lowry should have the advantage over Felton on both offense and defence, and the arrival of Telfair will take some pressure off Lucas to create for his teammates and just be a scoring sparkplug, if needed. Here’s hoping Lowry can stay on the court, this time.

Wings: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Steve Novak
Two pretty deep groups here, but Carmelo is clearly the strongest player of the group, so advantage goes to the Knicks. DeMar was key in the last matchup as there isn’t really anyone on the Knicks who can contain him when his offensive game is clicking on all cylinders, and he should be again tonight. It’ll be on Rudy to try and mitigate the advantage Carmelo will give the Knicks, and on everyone else to stop Smith, Kidd, and Novak from heating up from long range. Hopefully Terrence Ross will get a bit of run tonight against a group of shooters – it should be a bit easier to hide his inability to stop slashers.
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy v. Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas, and Chris Copeland
Advantage: Knicks
Chandler is the reason the Knicks have the advantage here, but the Raptor group as a whole is far more solid from top to bottom. I’d love to see the Raptors go big for stretches to try and wear down Carmelo, but I’d imagine Casey will go with reaction, rather than action, as he is want to do, and counteract the Knicks’ small-ball lineup with one of his own. Dare to dream.

The Picks

Vegas: Knicks -2.5
Hollinger: Raptors -0.5
Garrett: Those Hollinger odds sure love the Raptors, but it’s tough to see them going 2-0 against the Knicks in the span of just 10 days. That being said, I think the Raps match up well with the Knicks, and barring a Carmelo explosion (which is extremely possible), I’ll be optimistic and predict the Raptors by 3.

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