Pre-Game

Gameday: Raptors @ Knicks, Feb. 27

The Raptors have come out of the all-star break on something of a roll. We haven’t seen that in a while. The additions of Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker have brought defense and energy to a team that had been sorely lacking in both areas. With a Wednesday matchup with the Wizards looming and only a game between the two teams, a win tonight would put the Raptors in position to start climbing back up the standings that they slipped through in January.

The Raptors and Masai Ujiri have owned the Knicks for a while now. That Masai Ujiri is allowed in MSG and Charles Oakley isn’t let’s you know that James Dolan cares more about criticism than actual crimes, because Ujiri has robbed him on multiple occasions. The all-star break and Boogie Cousins trade were the most welcome of distractions for the Knicks, as the entire NBA media was focusing on the growing wildfire that was their organization up until those distractions. While they’ve managed to get out of the First Take crosshairs since the all-star break, there first action saw Kristaps Porzingis fall out of the lineup with an injury. He is unlikely to play tonight, as is the ghost of Joakim Noah.

The Raptors have closed their last two games playing Tucker and Ibaka beside each other, nullifying opponents small ball lineups while actually improving on defense. Toronto came back down the stretch against Boston and stopped a late Blazers rally before pulling away with the help of multiple Ibaka buckets. The Raps will need their energy and contributions again, as they’re likely to miss Queen Bee Kyle Lowry once again.

It’s a familiar narrative for the last third of the season of the Knicks. Melo is quietly playing at a much higher and efficient level than people realize as the Knicks bench fills with injuries, their management implodes and they continue to slip further away from playoffs and towards obscurity. Melo’s excellence has rarely been enough to drag his team to anything at or above mediocrity in recent years, but he’s taken much more flak and given less credit than peers such as Paul George, Anthony Davis, Dwyane Wade and pre-Lebron Kyrie Irving who’ve all been in the same situation. Melo has scored, been more efficient than you think he has while doing it and hit an abundance of wildly difficult clutch game winners. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Raptors have blown them out by double digits in four of the last five match ups, so that Melo clutch scoring hasn’t been to helpful. And yeah, I know what your rebuttal is, Knicks fans, and to that I say HE WAS OUT OF BOUNDS AND HE TRAVELED.

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