The Knicks being a dysfunctional roller coaster is nothing new. The Raptors are far less dysfunctional but are also far less talented. Jose Calderon actually did a decent job matched up with Lin at the peak of insanity. He should be back in the line-up tonight. Jerryd Bayless has stepped up his game while Jose has been sidelined with a bad ankle. One wonders if that will continue. Bayless is starting to look a lot like T.J Ford in a way. T.J was never same player in the back-up role as he was when he was the starter. Bayless has shown he can be something quite different when his name is called. When you take this last week and how he performed at the end of last season without Calderon the numbers are significantly better. So how Bayless plays may be as big a story as how Calderon looks in returning.
Andrea Bargnani had one of the better nights of his career playing at the World's Most Famous Arena aka Madison Square Garden. Almost everyone in the NBA gets a bit of a buzz from playing at MSG and it something the Knicks always have to deal with. It is part of the deal when you play in New York. More times than not you get the best punch from you oppositions stars. The Raptors come off a weekend where they get a surprising win of the Grizzlies and less than 24 hours later with more than a few issues they dropped another game to the Bobcats.
It is a small sample size but the Knicks numbers since the Coaching Change are impressive. Here is some of the key ones to take note of:
- Points For: 112.6 (They have scored over 100 in all 3 games)
- Points Against: 89 (Most was 100 on Road vs Pacers)
- Anthony: 14.6 PPG 43.5% FG% 5 assists 30.7% 3PT Range.
Obviously Carmelo is not lighting the world on fire so what has sparked this New York turnaround? The answer might be their bench which now as an added wildcard to the mix in J.R Smith who was one of those guys that were in China for part of the NBA Season. Knicks have averaged 55 points coming from the bench. Steve Novak has been doing his part as well.
So let's get to the 3 Keys:
1. Perimeter Defense: The Knicks have a number of options that are more than willing to fire it up from three point range. J.R Smith and Novak were mentioned but there are many others to add to the list. Raptors must defend the three point line to stand a chance in this one.
2. Bench Points: Raptors lost a big part of their bench in Barbosa. To expect them to outscore the Knicks might be asking to much. You just can't let it be totally lopsided. The Knicks second unit has a lot of scoring punch in comparison to the Raptors.
3. Ball Movement: When the Raptors have success on offense it is always tied to them having good ball movement. It is safe to say the Knicks are going to score their fair share despite the Raptors efforts on D. So that will put the pressure on the Raptors to score more and when they do it is because of ball movement.