Current Standings: New York - 2nd Place Eastern Conference (5.5 games back of Miami), 1st Place Atlantic Division (1 game ahead of Brooklyn) Toronto - 10th Place Eastern Conference (5 games behind 8th seeded Milwaukee), 5th Place Atlantic Division (12 games behind New York).
Previous Meetings - Raptors win 92-88 on February 13th
What To Watch For - If the Knicks couldn’t afford to come out flat on Wednesday night in Indiana, not being able to afford to come out flat tonight is an understatement. This team should be playing with a chip on it’s shoulder not only because of the lackluster performance against the Pacers, but also because this same Toronto team took care of business at Madison Square Garden the game before that. Tonight’s game won’t have the playoff atmosphere that Wednesday’s did, but there must be a sense of urgency. This is the second of a three game, post all-star break home stand for the Raptors, who play much better at the Air Canada Centre (14-14) than on the road (8-19). On a much less important note, the 3D Raptors illusion behind each hoop is by far the coolest feature on an NBA court.
Injury Update – For the Knicks, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby are practicing in a limited capacity, but are still a couple of weeks away from playing in a game. The newly acquired Kenyon Martin won’t suit up tonight, but it’s a strong possibility that he’ll play on Sunday against Philadelphia. Mickael Pietrus and Linas Kleiza are both out with knee injuries for Toronto, with no timetables for their return. Still no word if Sebastian Telfair will make his Raptors debut.
Key Match-Ups - Toronto’s backcourt has tons of athleticism, so the Knicks guards will have to step up defensively. Last time these teams met it was Alan Anderson who went off, shooting 10-16 from the field with 6 treys en route to a 26 point performance, but anyone from Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan to Anderson or Terrence Ross can make big time, momentum changing plays, especially in front of the home crowd. With the pressures of the trade deadline lifted, it would be nice to see Iman Shumpert break out of his shell. Even with his subpar play of late, he has to be the go-to defensive guard for the Knicks and his perimeter D will be an integral part of a Knicks victory.
Knicks Win If - They can get their act together. Sure, Toronto is playing 100 times better since acquiring Rudy Gay, but with all the talent and veteran leadership in the Knicks locker room, dropping three in a row (two to Toronto) is downright inexcusable. They probably don’t need to be at 100 percent, but just need to look much crisper. Shooting above 34% from the field and 18% from downtown wouldn’t hurt either.
Raptors Win If - They come out firing on all cylinders and can get underneath the Knicks skin. Constant complaining and technical fouls will ensue. This seems to be the blueprint on how to beat New York.
YouTube Clip – Remember how awkward it was to see Charles Oakley in a Raptors jersey?