Fresh off a victory against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the Toronto Raptors are set to take on their longtime rival New York Knicks at the ACC today. The Raps (21-6) head into this contest atop the Eastern Conference standings while New York (5-24) dwells at the near-bottom. Friday’s game saw the demise of rising star Andre Drummond, a horrifying fall from Landry Fields and continued support from Toronto fans on the road. Most importantly though, the Raptors picked up another big W to maintain their impressive rank among the NBA’s finest. Fields is questionable for today’s tilt.
The home team today has a tremendous amount of momentum going in, while the visitors cling to the promised development of Tim Hardaway Jr. and the fact that they’re still ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s Toronto’s last home game of 2014 as the team embarks on a six game road trip following today’s matchup. Jose Calderon is also back home. Overall, the Raps cannot ease up on the lowly Knickerbockers- take them seriously and put forth a full 48 minutes of work. Here are the Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Superstar forward Carmelo Anthony looks to compete tonight despite rumblings of his proposed absence due to knee pain. Regardless of the Knicks’ lack of reliable scoring options, there must always be a concentrated defensive effort to contain Anthony. As an 11-year veteran, virtually everyone across the league is familiar with his game: high-volume scoring and key baskets down the stretch. With the status of Fields (a former Knick) currently unknown, its likely that James “Superstar stopper” Johnson will be called upon to slow the conquest of Melo.
Leave it all on the floor
As previously mentioned, the Raptors have a habit of starting slow and trying for a valiant comeback in the closing minutes of a game. While this strategy is occasionally successful, it’s also very dangerous. In fact, it’s probably more of an inherent issue than a strategic plan. Even with a bottom-feeding team like New York, I expect a consistent effort from the home squad on both ends of the floor. Kyle Lowry is responsible for leading his team and he’s gone an excellent job thus far, especially in the absence of DeMar DeRozan. The emerging point guard continues to set a nightly example of hustle, passion and overall leadership. Nobody wants to lose to the Knicks, so it’s imperative that the Raps come out strong and stay focused until the final buzzer.
Good looks from 3
New York ranks 29th in the NBA in opponent three-point percentage (38.7%). Toronto shoots 36.5% from beyond the arc. Put two and two together here and you have a feasible game plan. Patrick Patterson has been on a tear from long range lately. The versatile big man can fill it up from three, stretching the floor and forcing defensive adjustments. Patterson should demand increased touches tonight from his teammates. The Knicks have a glaring weakness in perimeter defense and Toronto can easily capitalize on it with looks to 2Pat and the likes of Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross.
Contain Bargnani at all costs
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
It seems as if Ross is our most frequent X-factor nominee. He’s shown flashes of brilliance throughout his young career yet has never been able to string a consistent series of games together. Hopefully, given his opponent’s mediocrity, he will see more scoring opportunities and give the home fans something to cheer about in the last Northern contest of 2014.