Gameday: Raptors @ Knicks, Jan. 24

The Raptors head to New York to take on the struggling Knicks.

The New York Knicks are bad.  That could be the entirety of this preview and it would likely be enough.  They sit just 1 game above the Atlanta Hawks in the standings for last place in the Eastern Conference while playing with a roster that was likely built by drawing names from a hat.  They are the land of misfit toys with a few young and likable prospects sprinkled throughout.

Since ousting David Fizdale the Knicks have been a little feistier, with a record of 8 wins and 15 loses.  That still isn’t good (obviously), but the .348 win percentage with Mike Miller is far better than the .182 win percentage that Fizdale accomplished in the early season.  Whereas before they were a carnival of tragedy, now they are simply falling short of success.

With a 3-18 record against teams above .500 the Knicks would be considered heavy underdogs tonight, but they do have a few quality wins under their belt against the Mavericks (2 times), Trailblazers, and Heat.  They also fell just 3 points short of beating the 76ers just last week.

Tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden will be the second game of the season between the Raptors and Knicks, with the Raptors cruising to a 126-98 victory in Toronto on November 27th despite the absences of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.

Leading the way for New York (if you can call it ‘leading’) that night was Julius Randle, who finished with 19 points (7-of-14 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 1 assist.  He also was -18 on the night.

It is also likely that the Knicks will be without RJ Barrett, who has been ruled out since last Friday with an ankle injury.  X-rays came back negative, and the initial report stated that he would be reevaluated in one week.  Thankfully, while the initial injury looked quite bad the hope is he should return in the near(ish) future.

While RJ hasn’t had a dominant rookie season that New York likely hoped he would, the young Canadian has improved his efficiency over the last 10 games by shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3, and 75.6 percent from the free throw line.  He is also chipping in 5.4 rebounds per game over the same stretch.

So what, if anything, do the Knicks do well?  For starters the are among the league’s best at crashing the offensive glass, hauling in 29 percent of their own misses (4th in the league).  They are then putting averaging 14.4 second chance points a game (5th).

The Raptors will need to make a concerted effort to keep the Knicks off the glass, as players like Randle or Mitchell Robinson look for opportunities to grab additional possessions.  This area of strength for New York interestingly lines up with one of the Raptors area of weakness, as Toronto is bottom 10 (25th) in the league for second chance points allowed at 14 per game.

New York also does an excellent job at limiting points in the paint, allowing just 43 per game down low.  Only the Raptors (42.1) and the Bucks (38.3) allow fewer points in the paint.

Allow 35 three point attempts per game (6th most) and give up the highest opponent three point percentage at 39.

New York may do an excellent job at protecting the paint, but the opposite is true when it comes to preventing the three point play.  Not only do the Knicks allow 35 three point attempts per game (6th most), they also hold the distinction of allowing their opponents to shoot the highest percentage in the league (39 percent).

Allowing a high volume of three pointers can be fine on its own, as both Milwaukee and Toronto are showing this season, but allowing a high volume and a high percentage is a sign of losing the wrong shooters.

Yes, the Knicks have been improved of late compared to their early season production, but there are a lot of problems on both ends of the court.  The Raptors should have little difficulty adding to their win column tonight if they play with any type of effort.

Toronto enters with a record of 23-2 record against teams with a below .500 record, and can’t fall into the trap of a Knicks team Currently playing better than their overall record.

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