For anyone watching this game at home, you should have had the opportunity to fill out your entire New York Knicks viewing bingo card. JR Smith unnecessarily jacking up double-digit 3-point attempts? Check. Carmelo Anthony taking a series of well-contested isolation turn-around or fadeaway jumpers from the baseline and somehow hitting all of them? Check. Amare Stoudemire hitting the deck and staying down with an apparent “injury?” Check. Tyson Chandler making a cartoonish stink-face and walking around with his arms held out in a “what did I do?” motion after every single foul call? Check. And finally, a complete defensive breakdown leading to yet another embarrassing loss for the Knicks? Che…oh wait. One short of the Knicks bingo on that one, and one win short of the Atlantic division title too (for like 20 minutes until Brooklyn hooked us up, but still).

This game was entertaining and close from the opening tip until the start of the 4th quarter, when the Knicks played like a team that needed to win to have any playoff chances, and the Raptors played like a team that just needed to keep playing because there were like 15 000 people there watching and it would have been really awkward if they’d just kinda walked out, which is what they probably would rather have done.

Iman Shumpert may only be in his third season, but his hair-cut has been in the league since 1987, and that veteran savvy really comes through on the defensive end. Shumpert was credited with 2 steals, but he was responsible for breaking up what felt like four or five offensive possessions in a row for the Raptors in the 4th quarter that helped the Knicks pull away.

Amare Stoudemire looked fantastic. He scored at will in the low post, nailed an early jumper when the Raptors dared him to shoot instead of drive, he slammed home a pair of dunks on cuts to the basket amidst the Raptors’ defensive breakdowns and played well in the pick and roll whenever the Knicks decided to take a slight reprieve from iso-ball. The Raptors simply couldn’t keep Amare out of the paint. He was able to establish position early and seal either Patrick Patterson or Chuck Hayes almost underneath the basket before he even caught the ball. The bulk of his points came as easy points in the low post where he simply bullied those two. Amare may not have demonstrated the dynamic explosiveness that once made him the best pick’n’roll scoring big man in the NBA with Steve Nash and on the 2010-11 Knicks. Perhaps his uninsurable knees have relegated that man to memory. But he was dominant as a scorer nonetheless, and Amare Stoudemire-if-he-can-stay-healthy could spell some trouble for an opponent looking to cruise to a first round playoff win.

Now, having praised Amare for his offensive talents, it’s worth noting that his defensive shortcomings, in particular his disinterest in boxing out for rebounds, were also on apparent display. Valanciunas jumped on the opportunity and put up a positively Mozgovian stat line of 14 points and 21 rebounds. He had 8 offensive boards and he took Tyson Chandler, who could not contain his driving hook shot without fouling, completely out of the game with early foul trouble. JV was +5 on the night, compared to a negative plus/minus rating for the rest of the starters (not including Amir Johnson, who played a productive 17 first half minutes coming back from injury but did not return to play). I’m not a large proponent of NBA plus/minus numbers, but in this case they back up what looked apparent on the court (As an aside, an exception to this rule is adjusted or real plus/minus, like the delightfully insightful new system that ESPN launched this week. I completely support any kind of advanced metrics that tell that Amir Johnson has the 12th biggest impact on the court of any player in the NBA.). The problem came with filing the power forward minutes when Amir couldn’t go in the second half, and even more so with plugging in any of the bench big men at Valanciunas’ spot whenever he needed a breather. Casey ran a lineup to start the 4th quarter that featured the 6’6 Chuck Hayes as the only nominal big man on the court. It did not bode well. The aforementioned Amare Stoudemire manhandled anybody not named Valanciunas (He shot 10 of 14 and easily could have had 34 instead of 24 if the Knicks had simply gone to him more) and anytime the Knicks dribbled past their defender on the perimeter there was absolutely nobody to challenge the shot at the rim.
With the exception of Kyle Lowry’s impressively smothering defense on Prigioni in the Raptors noble final 3-minute comeback attempt, it was a bad defensive game from everyone. Offence wasn’t the problem, as the matador defenders of the Knicks allowed the Raptors to score at a rate of 114.5 points per 100 possessions, which is about 3 points better than the league leading LA Clippers offense averages. The problem was defense, where the Raps gave up a whopping 123.6 points per 100 possessions to the New York basketball shorts, a full 13 points worse than the Milwaukee Bucks average with the league’s most woeful defense.

The Bad News:
With the Raptor’s loss and Chicago win, the Bulls leapfrogged the Dino’s for the 3rd overall spot. Chicago closes the season out @Knicks, home for Orlando, and then @Charlotte, whom they may then likely face in the first round. Not a cakewalk, but not a rogue’s gallery of opponents either.

The Good News:
Who needs to win when your opponents lose without you! Brooklyn lost last night too, causing the three greatest words in the English language to apply to the Raptors pursuit of the Atlantic division title: won by default! WOOHOO! Its banner time everybody! Which is good, because the rafters of the ACC are shameful. The Raptors have one division banner in their history, which hangs beside an ‘inaugural season’ banner. When we hang the 2013-2014 Atlantic division champions banner, can we please take down the embarrassing inaugural season banner? It’s a joke. It’s like your parents keeping a participant ribbon pinned on the family fridge for a decade after you lost the consolation t-ball final in the 2nd grade. That banner is not an achievement; it’s an embarrassment that screams that we’ve never won anything. And that sentiment is echoed by the fact that the only banner to be raised in the ACC the last 7 years says “Bon Jovi” on it, because I have absolutely no idea why. Really? Come on MLSE, can you not see how you’re inflaming what’s already a problematic sports-fan inferiority complex in Toronto?

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  • afrocarter

    Well, they said they wanted Brooklyn…

  • GetLicks

    I know 2Pat still has that ‘new car smell’ but wow, there are times where he really struggles on D. And he doesn’t help himself much either, too often he shows way too much baseline to his man and gets blown by. This team desperately needs Amir back, and anyone who thinks Patterson should start is outta their minds.

    • noname

      in the offseason i hope we get a starting caliber pf and use 2pat, amir, and a backup C not named chuck hayes (alex ajinca?) as our bigs off the bench. and please oh please if ur not gonna use fields then get rid of him and salmons and get us a backup sf (wilson chandler or corey brewer, and no i’m not saying corey brewer only because he just dropped 51)

      • GetLicks

        If Amir’s ankle weren’t so unpredictable, I’d be all for keeping him. But it’d be nice to get a bigger pf who can defend well and use Amir against more mobile bigs (Durant, Nowitzki, Love). Ujiri may look to address that in the draft, and try to find a replacement pf for AJ.

        Even though Chandler has been hoisting up shots all year, I still like him and think he’d be great off the bench. Brewer too. Anyone but salmons and Hayes.

        • GetLicks

          Keeping him in the starting lineup** I meant

        • plaid coast

          who the hell is this bigger PF you’re talking about? WHAT A JOKE!

          here have a look:

          and count all the PFs in the league who can defend better than Amir. there’s probably two and i can assure you they’re not going to be traded. their names are Taj Gibson, and Anthony Davis. and also, Amir played awesome defence against Dirk and Durant this season — did you see those games? you go ahead and trade him from your fantasy team, Licks, but Ujiri’s not a moron.

          • GetLicks

            Are you stupid or just illiterate? Read my post again, I clearly stated Amir SHOULD be used against mobile bigs like Dirk and Durant. Because he can defend guys like that better than most in this league. But if you’ve been paying any attention, Amir struggles against bigger guys like the Aldridge and Gasols. So yeah, we could use another big that can defend guys like that. Amir is great, but the only thing that holds him back is his body.

            P.S. I actually won my fantasy league this year, how bout you?

      • Roarque

        Where does Tyler fit into your tirade? Oh, and Amir IS a starting caliber PF in this league. Put him on the trade wire and see how long it would take for 15 teams to start a riot for his services. Real plus/minus shines the spotlight, so look who’s in the limelight.

        • noname

          i dunno man, when he comes of the bench, he plays well and doesn’t get hurt. when he starts, he plays well but his body starts breaking down so then he has games where he doesn’t play well. I honestly think paul millsap would be perfect for our starting 5 because he’s an all-around elite power forward, but i don’t know how we’ll pry him away from atl. then amir can come off the bench and not lose his consistent good play due to injuries. 2pat can come off the bench and we can run small ball with he and either amir or millsap without many defensive shortcomings. then if we get a backup sf and c we can ride internal developement all the way to mr Larry O Brien!

  • noname

    man…wtf is with the raptors defense!! what happened to being the 7th best defense in the league!?!?!?! ugh i bet kenny smith will be talking quite a bit about this one.

    • why

      Well I could also ask wtf has happened to The Miami Heat team that won the NBA championship the last two years. Wait Dwayne Wade has been hurt and it isn’t really the same team at this point-in-time.
      The good Defensive raptors team was based on having healthy Amir and 2Pat anchoring the D which covered for the limitations of DD and GV and the inexperience of TR and JV. When they are out you are giving too many minutes to limited players like hayes, Novak, and Hansbrough who can’t do what AJ and 2Pat do(not to mention that 2pat isn’t even back at anywhere near the level he was before he was injured — hopefully that will happen soon)
      too me what has happened isn’t surprising – basketball teams are not full of perfectly interchangable parts – I am thankful taht for the most part the raptors have been able to pull out wins.

      • GLF

        But I think our defense has fallen off before either PPatt or Amir were out. I’m not sure on that though, correct me if I’m wrong.

        • Roarque

          You’re nearly wrong. Amir was limping before they hog tied him to the bench in the middle of a game a while back.

          • why

            To my point – I heard Eric Smith say on the radio today there defense has been slipping since theend of the first week of March. 2 Pat went on the disabled list after the March 7 game against Sacremento. Last time he and Amir played together when they were both relatively healty.

      • Roarque

        What he said.

  • jakdripr

    It’s all a learning experience, for the coaching staff, the players, even the front office. Ujiri is still trying to understand what he’s inherited and games like these more so than the games we win shows him that while we have a solid foundation, there’s still work to be done, especially on our front court.

    Also, I just don’t understand why the team keeps going away from JV when he’s playing well. I didn’t watch the final 5 minutes of the game because the defence was making me nauseous but after putting the entire knicks front line in foul trouble in the 2nd quarter JV got like 1 touch the entire second half. That’s just bad, why go away from what’s working? This is the kinda shit that caused beef between shaq and pretty much every perimeter player he’s played with. When the big fella’s working hard setting screen, getting rebounds, running the floor, and changing shots and he gets completely ignore on the other end that shit isn’t healthy.

    I hope Casey watches this tape and complains about that in addition to the porous defence.

    • GetLicks

      He prob didn’t get as many touches as he should have, but he also missed quite a few crucial opportunities down the stretch. Whether it was missing a bunny shot, or letting a rebound slip out of his hands (hard to complain when he grabbed 20, I know), I think he could have played better. The whole team played pretty bad last night.

      • jakdripr

        Yea I can’t cosign complaining about his rebounding on a night like last night. I mean, he had more offensive rebounds than the entire knick team. In regards to him missing shots, once again, I didn’t watch the final 5 or so minutes so if it happened then please excuse me, however the only shot I saw him miss in the 2nd half was a very good shot(turn out shot over Chandler) that he just happened to miss.

        Then there’s the fact that when you’re not sure when your next shot that thought is always at the back of your mind and you try to hard to make that shot count. But no you’re right, this was a team wide mess up and we deserved to lose. I just feel since the knicks hadn’t shown they had an answer to JV, why go away from him?

        • Roarque

          Been happening since Christmas imo and will need to be fixed soon. This year JV is just happy to be a pro in the NBA and to be on a winner so he still runs his ass off and does the grunt work. That said, he will soon be demanding the rock if he isn’t already and if his scoring is restricted by his team mates refusing to find him then he’ll be doing more than demanding. He’ll be grabbing TRoss by the onions and squeezing until he chirps.

          • jakdripr

            It made sense then though since every time he touched the ball he turned it over earlier in the season. But now he’s actually doing work, his teammates need to realize this and get him the ball with a little more consistency.

            He’ll be a valuable asset in the playoffs, especially against the Nets small ass frontline.

  • why

    Does anyone else get annoyed when raptors announcers (Jack Armstrong being the worst) moan about the regression without naming names? the team consists of individuals – as a viewer want to know who isn’t doing their job.

    • Gary Gill

      The raptors announcers are like worst in the league!!!! They all suck a$$!!!!!!

      • GetLicks

        You obviously don’t watch some of the other team’s broadcasts.

    • Roarque

      Not Jack’s style. You should note that he is the only colour guy who calls it like it is but he’s wise enough to not name names as that would cost him the Raptor gig. I’m pretty sure Jack is a contractor and not an employee. The employees gush over every good move and ignore every bad move the players make on the court. And the replay guys ( the guys in the truck) only show the high profile points made by the raps – not the screw ups on D that lead to losses like last night.

  • Jay jay 709

    The raptors weaknesses were simply exposed, plain and simple, and it’s the same old story (power forward and small forward) TR and DD are both good players but play the exact same position – shooting guard. But now it’s time to decide if they can play together by keeping one at small fwd, or … Its obviously not working especially against the more experienced teams, maybe it’s time to “give something to get something” while the 3rd place in the east raptors stock is at a high.

    • Haim not Feldman

      Fo sho. Like many Raps fans, I drank the kool aid of this magical season of destiny but last night’s game was a dose of reality. Just look at the picture above. Why does TRoss play SF and have to guard the likes of KD and Melo? That must take a toll on his body and development. Ross should play SG and the Raps need to trade for Orlando or Cleveland’s pick, or get a free agent *cough,KD,* to play SF. Orlando and Cleveland already have plenty of young talent, they don’t need anymore kids but could use a young veteran who still has upside.

      • jjdynomite

        But Melo and KD destroy EVERYBODY (1 and 2 in the league in scoring) not just skinny SG/SFs like Ross — who is in his sophomore year as well. Just ‘cuz a guy is bigger like Wilson Chandler doesn’t mean he automatically plays D like Iguodala. And there ain’t Kawhi Leonards or Paul Georges sitting on trees waiting to be plucked.

        • Haim not Feldman

          True dat, that’s Melo and KD for ya. Most SF’s are 6’8*-6″9″ and seem to be difficult for TRoss even if the opposing SF is average, IMO, move Ross to SG. Yes it will be a challenge to find a Leonard or George in the latter first round, but if Masai can trade for Orlando’s pick, the Raps are bound to get an above average starter at SF. If Orlando says no to a trade, Masai can tell them, kiss my assets.

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  • Guest

    I personally care less about clinching the division than winning a play-off series; a mission now made harder by the fact that by falling to fourth we will have to face Nets who’ve been unbelievable in 2014 (some disrespect intended to the Wizards)

    • Tinman

      Yeah but we’ve been just as hot. Have home court. And I think we match up as good against the Nets as any other team.
      I think whoever we face it’ll be a dogfight. Charlotte and Wizards have been playing just as good. But with home, I’d have us as the favourites against any of the three potential opponents.
      Sit Amir until he’s healthy. Try and rest Lowry. Hit the playoffs healthy and I’ll take our chances.


    Wasn’t it just a short while ago that people were claiming this is a D first/half-court team? 7th in the L or something?

    • Ogi

      When healthy yeah. And it wasn’t just people saying it, it was stats and eye test showing it.

      • FLUXLAND

        There were some of us who weren’t buying into the stat ranking, I guess – certainly didn’t pass everyone’s eye test.

        • Ogi

          A small minority which you always seem to be a part of lol 😉

  • Quest

    i don’t know who too cheer for. do i cheer for miami and hope thinking that the knicks will beat the bulls? or do i cheer for indiana thinking that the bulls will beat the knicks… of course our optimal situation would be for miami to win on saturday and chicago to lose tomorrow. that way we take third and face the wiz first round then indy second round.

  • Pedro-

    Atlanta clinched playoff birth easily beating Miami. That means NY will have nothing to play for against Chicago apart from being a spoiler. So, we are more likely to meet BRK in first round and Miami in the second round if we go through. Although Washington is my first choice, I still think we can pull a victory. If this scenario comes true, it makes our loss yesterday the most significant loss of the season.


    Hopefully Indiana stays at the #1 spot. if that happens i prefer the 4th seed.

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  • JHP

    Well they have definitely over achieved. But this game shows they are still a couple pieces away from really be a consistent playoff team. Not sure what they have planned for Fields. Coach will not play him and they owe him 8.5 m next year.