Toronto Raptors vs. New York Knicks: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
The Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks meet for the final time Saturday night.
The two teams are finishing up a home-and-home series, with the prevailing by a score of 99-94 on Friday night in Toronto.
Toronto has failed to kick on after the Rudy Gay trade. The Raptors find themselves eight and a half games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They've also only won three of their last 13 games.
Of major concern to the Raptors was that Gay left Friday's game with a back injury and didn't return. His inclusion in the lineup for Saturday looks to be doubtful at this point.
The Knicks, despite a rash of injuries, continue to find themselves near the top of the East. Having Amar'e Stoudemire out is a big blow because he had really adjusted well to a diminished role on the team. At this point, every game counts for the Knicks because they don't want to hurt their playoff position with a couple of poor results.
Here's what you need to know as the Knicks and Raptors finish up their season series.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
When: Saturday, March 23, 7 p.m. ET
Watch: MSG (New York) and Sportsnet 1 (Toronto)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Records: Toronto Raptors (26-43) at New York Knicks (41-26)
Raptors Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Andrea Bargnani, Elbow
Knicks Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Tyson Chandler, knee and neck
Baron Davis, knee
Iman Shumpert, knee
Amar'e Stoudemire, knee
Kurt Thomas, foot
Rasheed Wallace, foot
Key Storyline: Home-Court Advantage
With so little of the season left, there's nothing but pride on the line for the Raptors. They don't have any shot of making the playoffs and only have a top-three protected first-round pick in the draft. There's some talk as to whether Toronto should tank in order to increase the odds of getting a top-three pick. The fans deserve to at least see a competitive Raptors team because they have put up with a losing team four years in a row now.
The Knicks, on the other hand, are assured of a playoff spot. The only concern is whether or not they can manage to keep home-court advantage, or possibly even grab the second seed in the East.
Between the second and sixth seeds in the conference, you only have about a six-game difference. There's still plenty of movement that can happen as the season winds down.
New York has been one of the best teams in the East all season. It wouldn't want to let a poor run toward the end of the year result in losing home-court advantage in the first round.
Key Matchup: Jonas Valanciunas vs. Kenyon Martin
If the Raptors are to win this game, they'll need a strong performance from Jonas Valanciunas.
Alan Anderson had a huge game Friday night, scoring 35 points, but it still wasn't enough to get past New York. That was due in part to the fact that Valanciunas and Amir Johnson only combined for 14 points.
More was expected of Valanciunas on Friday night, especially considering the Knicks were without Tyson Chandler in the post. The rookie has been playing very well recently. The injury to Andrea Bargnani could be a blessing in disguise as it's opened up more playing time for the big man. Valanciunas has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games.
With the way that the Knicks have been hit by injuries, the post is there to be exploited. Kenyon Martin has performed well, but he doesn't match up well with Valanciunas' size.
There's also Johnson, who's recorded 10 or more rebounds in five of his last seven games. The Raptors have the advantage when it comes to the post. The combination of Martin and Marcus Camby simply can't handle Valanciunas and Johnson if they're playing well.
It's up to Toronto to make the most of that advantage.
The Raptors are only 9-25 away from home this season, so getting a win in New York would be a nice feather in the cap. Toronto already has one victory in MSG this season, beating the Knicks, 92-88, back on February 13.
Who wins this game?
If Toronto couldn't get it done in the Air Canada Centre, it's hard envisioning the team picking up a victory in New York.
Possibly without Gay, the Raptors could have a hard time keeping up with the Knicks. He represents much of Toronto's offense, so he leaves a major hole in his absence. The Raptors just don't have enough to counter the contributions of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
The Knicks just have too much talent to see them losing on Saturday. New York should be able to take control of this one early and not let Toronto get close.
New York Knicks 96, Toronto Raptors 80
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