Knicks gonna Knick.
The Toronto Raptors are set to play host to the New York Knicks this afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET), which will mark the second of four clashes this season.
I’m not going to mince words. The Knicks are bad. Really bad. They currently sit at 5-24 this season, which is somehow only one game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, who are intentionally tanking. The players are fighting, the New York media has seemingly turned on rookie head coach Derek Fisher, and by extension, doubts are creeping in over the efficacy of the Triangle Offense. The Knicks may have Carmelo, but he’s no Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Scottie Pippen or Michael Jordan, and quite frankly, the Triangle Offense has simply not worked aside from teams featuring those four Hall of Famers.
As for the on-court performance, the Knicks own the rare distinction of being in the bottom ten of both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ve lost a few games at the buzzer, and their record should improve a tad with Jose Calderon fully healthy (for now), but we’re still dealing with a team in which Amar’e Stoudemire, who is half a player in the sense that he only plays offense, is their best big man.
There’s also the injuries to report. Unfortunately for Raptors fans, schadefrude will have to wait, as Andrea Bargnani is still out with a strained hamstring. They also lost their best perimeter defender in Iman Shummpert due to a dislocated shoulder, and it’s as of yet unclear if day-to-day injuries will keep J.R. Smith, Stoudemire and Anthony out as well.
But still, the Knicks are not to be taken lightly. They play a conservative defense which is meant to protect the paint at all costs (though they lack a true rim protector). That means the Raptors should be able to feast on open looks from deep. However, should the Raptors go cold on 3-pointers to start, as they did against the Knicks in their last contest, then there’s a decent chance of the game being close, as a Knicks squad with Anthony and Calderon will form something of a passable offense.
Positional match ups
Guards: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams, Terrence Ross vs. Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Petey Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Currently the Knicks have four guards who are healthy, and they’re all the size of point guards. Calderon can spot minutes at the two, but the Knicks need him facilitating the ball. The gameplan here is simple. Put a speedy guy on Larkin, but it’s not too much of a worry if he gets to the rim because he’s not a great finisher. Calderon and Prigioni are deadeye shooters from beyond. Tim Hardaway Jr. can get hot occasionally, and he will shoot, like, every time down the floor.
Forwards: Landry Fields, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson vs. Carmelo Anthony*, Amar’e Stoudemire*, Travis Wear, Quincy Acy
The biggest threat here is obviously Anthony, who fits squarely into the archetype of player that gives the Raptors fits. He dropped 34 points in their last meeting, and had it not been for Patterson’s defense late in the fourth and in overtime, Anthony likely would have buried the Raptors with his nearly unguardable set of offensive talents. Aside from Anthony, the Raptors just need to get a body up on Stoudemire and Acy, while keeping a hand up on Wear, who is a decent midrange shooter.
Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck “Daddy Swag” Hayes vs. Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich
Fun fact: all three of the Knicks’ centers are shooting below 50 percent on the season. That should give you an indication of their offensive capabilities. Jason Smith likes to shoot it from midrange, but aside from that. the Raptors really only need to make sure to box out. At least Dalembert and Aldrich are good post defenders.
The betting line for this game likes Toronto by 12.5, and the over-under is set at 197. If Anthony rests, the Raptors could easily best that number, but out of respect for Anthony’s scoring ability, I’d peg the Raptors to win by 14 points, because Knicks gonna Knick.
Final score: 113-99
Update: Anthony IN, Stoudemire, Smith OUT
Yeah, so scratch Stoudemire from the preview above. Welp.
— Nils Linnenbrügger (@DocNaismith) December 21, 2014