By Brian Faith, Knicks Fan Since ‘93
The Toronto Raptors are 3-2 since trading for Rudy Gay, and he’s had a profound impact on the way the team has played. Gay is the most explosive wing player the Raptors have had on their roster since the days of Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. The Knicks will have to adjust their game plans quickly to contain Rudy, and the new-look Raptors.
Gay’s expertise thus far in his career has been on the offensive end, and most figured the Raptors would see a bump in their production on that end of the floor with his acquisition. It’s only a five-game sample, but he is averaging what would be a career-high 23.4 ppg so far with the Raptors. He has done most of his damage in the paint, in transition, and at the free throw line, where he’s averaging 5.4 attempts per game since the trade.
It will be important for the Knicks to clog up the lane, and continue taking care of the ball to limit Gay’s transition opportunities. Depending on the situation, the Knicks will likely put Iman Shumpert or Carmelo Anthony on him, and then double-team on post touches. When the Knicks defense is clicking, the rotations are tight and shooters are chased off the three-point line. This will be key for the Knicks to win the game.
Although there’s been a slight improvement on the offensive end since Gay arrived, the real difference thus far has been on the defensive side of the ball for the Raptors. With Rudy on the court, the Raptors are giving up just 95.4 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, which would lead the league if it held for the season. He gives the Raptors more size at the small forward position, and with Jose Calderon now with the Pistons, Kyle Lowry has been unleashed to wreak havoc on opposing point guards.
The Knicks will look to create matchup problems for Gay on the defensive side of the floor, and hope this limits his production on the other end. Gay or Amir Johnson will most likely cover Carmelo Anthony. Expect Melo to put the ball on the floor against Rudy, and beat him up down low. If Johnson is on him, look for Anthony to spread the floor and open up the paint by dragging Johnson to the perimeter.
It will take subtle game plan adjustments on both ends of the floor to limit Rudy Gay, but if the Knicks can make life difficult for him, they should beat the Raptors.
A win will put the Knicks at 33-17 heading into the All-Star break, primed to make a run at the Miami Heat for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
Knicks fans, what do you think are the keys to beating the Raptors on Wednesday? Leave your thoughts in the comments!