The New York Knicks are bad. They’re of the ilk of the fatigued Chicago Bulls, in that the Raptors 905 wouldn’t beat them in a 7-game series, but the 905 wouldn’t get swept, either. The Knicks are 14-60, having lost 12 of their last 13 (the only win being, of course, over the LeBron James Lakers.)
The Raptors and Knicks last played quite recently, on March 18 (the anniversary of the beginning of the Paris Commune, which just for a subtle plug, I studied in depth.) Kawhi Leonard sat for load management then, as well, and the Raptors romped 128-92. The starters were especially dominant, and Jeremy Lin scored a team-high 20 in a bench-high 26 minutes. If there’s anything to hope for in this one, aside from a win and continued health, it’s more Lin success. Lin is awesome and loveable, and getting his game going would be a nice side effect of tonight’s game.
Otherwise, the Raptors do have some specific things to iron out. Norman Powell always dominates against poor teams, shooting 39-for-73 over his last 10 (53.4 percent from the field.) But separate that out, and it becomes clear that his numbers have been a little more mixed. Over the same stretch, he’s shot 50 percent or better against every team except for the Oklahoma City Thunder, against whom he shot 0-for-5. Powell easily creates against bad teams in isolation and the pick-and-roll, but he struggles in those same scenarios against good teams. So the Raptors should see this game, and all remaining ones, as playoff dress rehearsals. Don’t put Powell in isolation or the pick-and-roll. The team knows he will dominate there, but it’s not useful information. Let him spot up, cut around primary initiators like Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol, and finish possessions as a shooter. If Powell can continue his hot shooting in a more specific, smaller role, that would be a big win for Toronto.
Furthermore, Toronto has committed far too many turnovers of late. Even though Chicago was an easy win, in which Siakam only committed two turnovers, he compiled 17 in the three games previous. He’ll have a larger role here, especially if OG Anunoby doesn’t play with concussion-like symptoms (has since been ruled out). Siakam should dominate easily against a defence as porous as the Knicks’, so his decision making should be the priority here.
Toronto will also try to boost their centers. Marc Gasol has been the team’s consistent starter for a while now, but he hasn’t taken as many shots as coach Nick Nurse and even teammates would like. Look for the Raps to establish Gasol’s jumper early, which is frequently a point of emphasis in pre-game scrums with Nurse. He’s hit double-digit field goal attempts only four times since joining Toronto in early February. Ibaka has been returning to form of late, especially in his last game against Chicago, where he finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Toronto will look to establish Ibaka in his comfort zones, especially in the pick-and-roll and from the midrange. VanVleet has been looking for Ibaka as a midrange popper out of pick-and-roles, and that is clearly by design. The two will need to establish more chemistry for the playoffs, as they’ll probably see lots of time together if Gasol remains the permanent starter. The VanVleet-Ibaka connection is going in the right direction, and Toronto should pound that action to keep it trending up.
OG Anunoby (concussion-like symptoms) is out per, Eric Koreen. Of course, The Load (Leonard) will be managed. Jordan Loyd is ruled out to be with the 905 during their playoff run. They play tomorrow in Long Island. Malcolm Miller and Chris Boucher will be available tonight, but expect low minute totals to keep them fresh for tomorrow, but also because that was always going to be the case anyway.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin
SG: Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw, Jodie Meeks
SF: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
New York Updates
Allonzo Trier (calf), Noah Vonleh (ankle), Frank Ntilikina (groin) are all out. Kevin Knox (ankle) and Dennis Smith Jr. (back) are questionable.
PG: Emmanuel Mudiay, Kadeem Allen
SG: Damyean Dotson, John Jenkins
SF: Mario Hezonja
PF: Lance Thomas, Henry Ellenson, Isiah Hicks
C: DeAndre Jordan, Mitchell Robinson, Luke Kornet
Toronto is -11, and the over-under is 216.
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