The Toronto Raptors will try to set a franchise record of 10 consecutive wins, when they play the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
Kyle Lowry is listed as questionable for tonight’s matchup, after hurting his wrist in a 106-89 victory over the Washington Wizards. It’s likely the Air Canada Centre will see their All-Star point guard on the floor chasing records, when he said wrist was “fine” after their ninth straight win.
Jose Calderon, and Carmelo Anthony are out for tonight’s game. Without the Knicks superstar on the the floor against the Raptors, they won’t have to worry about the 25.3 points he averages against them for his career, when they face up on TNT at 8 p.m. ET.
Cage’s Keys To The Game
Tame The “Unicorn”
If you haven’t heard, Kevin Durant called Kristaps Porzingis a “unicorn”.
The Knicks already have more wins than last season, and a large part of it has to do with their 2015 draft pick. At 7-foot-three, the Latvian rookie is putting up historic numbers despite only being 20 years old.
So far, he’s become one of two players all-time to average 14 points, 7.8 boards, 2 blocks, and have at least 50 three-pointers in a season. The only other player to post those numbers was Serge Ibaka in 2014-15, when he was 25 and had already made a Finals appearance.
The way the Raptors can make sure he doesn’t light up for a 20-point showcase, which he’s done eight times this season, is by constantly pressuring him with or without the ball. The Knicks always make sure that Porzingis gets easy looks, which has resulted in 67.5 per cent of his baskets being assisted.
When he shoots wide open shots, he averages a stellar 46.8 per cent from the field and 40.5 from distance. But if a defender is within 2-4 feet of him, his field goal percentages drops to 39.5 per cent from the field, and 18.2 per cent from three-point land.
Don’t Let Them Gamble with The 3
The last time the Raptors played the Knicks on Nov. 10, they allowed them to attempt 23 three-pointers, which they converted at a 47.8 per cent clip. It was a huge reason, along with the refs missing some critical calls, as to why the Knicks were able to come away with the 111-109 victory.
The Knicks usually don’t take a lot of three-pointers, and coming into tonight’s game they hold the eight lowest number of three-point attempts in the league.
But if you allow the Knicks to shoot threes, they won’t hesitate to fire away. They have five players on their team that shoot over 34 per cent. The lowest of that group being Porzingis with 34.2 per cent shooting, and the highest being Lance Thomas, who shoots 41.7 per cent form distance.
No Mercy from DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan was fantastic the last time these two teams matched up, scoring 29 points and going to line nine times. Tonight, he should have the same agenda going against a team that expects the refs to be blowing the whistle a bunch.
The Knicks love going to the free-throw line, where they gather 18.3 per cent of there points from. That has them ranked as the eight highest in that category, behind the Raptors who are second, with 20 per cent of their points coming from freebies.
DeRozan shouldn’t have the toughest time going against Aaron Afflalo, considering his height advantage, and Afflalo’s poor defensive play this season. He has the second worst defensive efficiency rating on the Knicks, only behind Calderon.
X Factor: Cory Joseph
If Lowry gets to play after being cleared for tonight’s game with a sore wrist, it’s very likely that Dwane Casey will resort to playing his All-Star much shorter minutes. Those minutes will be handed to Cory Joseph, who’s been averaging 8.4 points on 45.5 per cent shooting, 3 assists, 0.8 steals, in 25.7 minutes off the bench.
Cory Joseph is a proven backup point guard, and has been great on both sides of the ball for the Raptors. On defence, he holds the team’s third highest defensive efficiency rating, only behind Delon Wright and Bruno Caboclo, who play a majority of their minutes in garbage time.
He won’t need to do anything spectacular offensively, since he’ll be paired along DeRozan. All he needs to do is make sure that the Raptors don’t slip away from their principles against a Knicks squad that is 9.5 games behind them in the Eastern Conference standings.
A task that can either make or break a team.
All stats for this article are from BasketballReference.com and NBA.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97