Brad Penner – USA Today Sports
The Toronto Raptors will continue their trek down a softer part of their schedule as they take on the New York Knicks tonight at the Garden. The Knicks snapped a 10 game losing streak in their last game against the Boston Celtics. The Knicks now have a record of 5-20. These are the kinds of games the Raptors need to rack up in the win column while they remain without the services of DeMar DeRozan.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Make life difficult for Melo
Despite the pleasant surprise of Amar’e Stoudemire and the odd triumph of skill over stupidity for J.R. Smith, the key to the Knicks attack is Carmelo Anthony. Anthony averaged 31.8 point per game against the Raptors last season. The Raptors need to mix up their defenders and have a hand in every shot Anthony takes. Life needs to be as difficult as possible for him. Look for Landry Fields to start off with the assignment. He’s played well since his insertion into the starting lineup and needs to continue to provide solid perimeter defense for this team.
Win the battle of the benches
Believe it or not, the Knicks have put together a strong bench attack They average 40.1 points per game compared to the 38.7 the Raptors post off the bench. Though very poor defensively, both Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. have the ability to light up the scoreboard. The Raptors need to both lock them down and exploit their weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Patterson, James Johnson and Lou Williams will be the keys here.
Put your foot on their throat and keep it there
Let’s be brutally honest: The Knicks are a terrible team. However, they’re still an NBA team with talented players. Overlooking them will spell trouble for Toronto. The Raptors have struggled with poor starts against poor teams throughout the season. With Anthony’s success against the Raptors coupled with the absence of DeRozan, this team needs to start playing with 12 minutes left in the first quarter and never let up.
X-Factor: James Johnson
Darren Calabrese, AP/ The Canadian Press
Johnson will probably be assigned Anthony and Smith for most of the night. His defense will be key, as well as his ability to get into the lane for that second unit. Johnson’s performance on both ends will be key to the Raptors fortunes tonight.