By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Raptors | Air Canada Centre
When: Friday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: It's a preseason reunion game for the Knicks tonight in Toronto, as new starting forward/former Raptor No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani returns to the city he called home for seven years. New York is coming off a one-point win over the Celtics in Providence on Wednesday night, but the score was hardly indicative of who was the better team. The Knicks' first and second units clearly outplayed the Celtics in the preseason-opening win, led by Iman Shumpert's perfect 7-for-7 night from the floor and Tim Hardaway Jr.'s stellar debut that included the game-winning jumper with seconds to play.
Toronto: Two Raptors with New York ties will be contributing to the reunion atmosphere -- former Knicks Landry Fields and Steve Novak are part of a crowded, perhaps jumbled Toronto set of wing players this year. This group also includes last year's big trade acquisition, Rudy Gay, recently-extended DeMar DeRozan, and recent lottery pick, Terrence Ross. Head coach Dwane Casey will try to extract some defense from the roster, as he did in his first season two years ago. Central to that goal will be 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas, the former 5th overall pick and Las Vegas Summer League MVP.
The Numbers Game
Between them, Iman Shumpert, Hardaway and Metta World Peace combined to shoot 18-for-26 (69%) from downtown against Boston.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Jonas Valanciunas
Down the road, we could look back at matchups between these two as classics. Valanciunas is that good. A rookie last season out of Lithuania, he proved he could finish at the rim (56% FG), rebound and defend. Then, this summer in Vegas, he showed up with a new chiseled physique and dominated the competition with his combination of size and big man skills. Chandler looked healthy and strong in his return to the game action after a summer to recover from the neck injury that sapped him of his strength down the stretch last year. He'll have a good test tonight as he continues to tune up for the regular season.
What to Look For
Coach Woodson announced yesterday that he'll be going with the same starting lineup he used against Boston: Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Carmelo Anthony, Bargnani and Chandler. As a group, they played well together and each turned in solid individual performances, as well. In particular, Melo and Bargnani looked comfortable playing off each other -- something they've been working on throughout training camp.
The second unit was largely responsible for blowing the game open in the third quarter against the Celtics, so seeing if Shump, Hardaway and Metta can continue to provide that spark going forward will be worth watching. Fourteen different players saw the floor in the opener, with only Toure' Murry and Chris-Douglas Roberts getting DNP's" that weren't known before the game. With a crowded perimeter situation, we'll see if they get some minutes tonight.