Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: It’s Jimmer Time

The Toronto Raptors will look to get a bit of momentum back with their second win in as many nights Monday when they visit the New York Knicks at 7:30 on Sportsnet One.

It’s the Raptors’ third meeting with the Knicks on the season and the first inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden. The two teams split earlier earlier games, with the Knicks winning 111-109 early in the season and the Raptors coming out on top 103-93 just a few weeks back, albeit against a shorthanded Knicks squad.

The Knicks squad they’ll draw Monday is well-manned, with an interesting addition set to play in his first game as a member of the Knicks

Jimmer Fredette debuts…maybe
In a debut that can only truly be rivaled in excitement by the pending WWE debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, Jimmer Fredette will suit up for the Knicks on Monday. Fredette, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, has spent the 2015-16 season with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Westchester, save for a four-game stint with the New Orleans Pelicans.

In 30 games with the baby Knicks, he’s averaging 21.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.7 steals while hitting 40.5 percent of his threes. He’s played well enough to earn an All-Star nod, then won the MVP in that showcase with a 35-point outburst. Of course, he remains largely himself, incapable of contributing at the defensive end and prone to making a major net-negative impact when his shot isn’t falling, like when Axel Toupane and Raptors 905 held him to a 4-of-21 night last week.

Still, he can shoot and he can score, and for a Knicks team that’s been a bit weak at the point guard position, the flier – which also serves to pop interest in the team given Fredette’s stature despite ranking as a non-prospect – makes sense. Personally, I could list a handful of guard prospects more intriguing and/or playing better in the D-League (Toure’ Murry, Sean Kilpatrick, Tony Wroten, Russ Smith), but Knicks gonna Knicks. It’s not like point guard defense is a major hole or anything…oh.

In 233 NBA games over parts of five seasons, the BYU product has averaged six points, one rebound, and 1.4 assists while shooting 41.1 percent from the floor and 38 percent on threes. If he plays, the Raptors will have to pick him outside the arc, but both Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph should be able to keep him from creating from dribble-penetration without much issue.

Then again, this may all be a moot point if noted Great Ass Daily fan Kurt Rambis has his way.

He will be active, however. He just might not see floor time.

A much bigger issue
Yeah, so, Fredette may not be a problem, but Kristaps Porzingis is certainly going to be. An incredibly exciting freshman and likely runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting right now, Porzingis should prove to fast and athletic for Luis Scola to open the game. The Raptors remain adamant that they’re not changing their starting lineup, but 3-6 Latvia, aka the Putback Steakhouse, could put an end to this “Scola isn’t playing poorly” farce.

Porzingis missed the last meeting with Toronto and struggled some in their first matchup, scoring eight points on 3-of-11 shooting to go with six rebounds. On the season, he’s averaging 13.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks while shooting 42.5 percent overall and 34.4 percent from long-range, impressive production for a 20-year-old.

It’s going to take every veteran present that Scola has to keep up. But hey, Patrick Patterson taking advantage of opposing reserves and rotation consistency and role certainty are all points, too, I suppose, so long as people stop pretending Scola, playing more minutes than he has since 2012-13 at age 35 and shooting 38.4 percent over his last 22 games, isn’t struggling. He is, and he’s still bringing other things to the table, and there are ways he could be getting used better, but stop carrying water for a guy’s play just because he’s likeable.

The lineups
There’s nothing new on either side. The Knicks are still without Cleanthony Early, the Raptors without DeMarre Carroll. Bruno Caboclo, meanwhile, remains with Raptors 905. So the rotations will look something like this:

PG: Lowry, Joseph, Delon Wright vs. Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, Fredette
SG: DeMar DeRozan, T.J. Ross, Norman Powell vs. Arron Afflalo, Sasha Vujacic, Langston Galloway
SF: James Johnson vs. Carmelo Anthony, Lance Thomas
PF: Scola, Patrick Patterson, Anthony Bennett vs. Porzingis, Derrick Williams, Lou Amundson
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira vs. Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin

This is a good opportunity for Johnson to re-establish his value as a big-wing stopper opposite Anthony, who also missed the last meeting between the two teams. When Carroll returns, Johnson will likely slide back into his 10th-man role, and doing a good job on Anthony – and maybe even Porzingis for stretches – and then LeBron James later in the week would be a good way to remind head coach Dwane Casey of his value as a matchup specialist instead of just a depth piece.

The line
The Raptors opened as four-point favorites and the line has oscillated between that point and Raptors -3.5, while the over-under curiously dropped from 202.5 to 199 and back up to 203.5 before settling there. The over-under now seems a bit high, what with both teams playing a bottom-six pace, even if neither side has been particularly spry on the defensive end of late.

Let’s be tepidly optimistic, because I don’t have the energy in me to be anything else right now. Raptors 100, Knicks 95. Kristaps Porzingis scores 95 points.

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