By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Raptors | Air Canada Centre
When: Monday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks hit the floor tonight for their first game since last Thursday's matchup with the Wizards in Baltimore. After an open practice that was a rousing success yesterday, they'll head north of the border in an effort to fine tune their rotations as they prepare for the start of the regular season. Tonight marks their fifth of six away preseason games (they have a record of 2-2 so far) -- they'll face Milwaukee on Wednesday in Green Bay, WI, before returning home to face the Bobcats and debut the new transformed Madison Square Garden on the 25th.
Toronto: The Raptors are 4-1 this preseason, surely a positive sign for a franchise looking to make its move from perennial lottery participant to playoff contender. They'll rely on Rudy Gay, the go-to guy on offense, and Jonas Valanciunas, the former top-5 pick who is blossoming into a force in the middle as he enters his second NBA season to make that leap happen.
The Numbers Game
Carmelo Anthony put on a show in his return to Baltimore last Thursday, putting up 22 points, five rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes -- a very high number for a superstar in preseason. That just showed how special the game was for him, his first as a professional in the city that raised him.
Matchup to Watch
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Terrence Ross
Many expected Hardaway to wait his turn on the Knicks' deep bench as a rookie, but as opportunities have presented themselves throughout training camp and the preseason, he's made the most of them. Tonight, he'll get the start at shooting guard, and based on his performance to this point, we can expect him to continue showcasing the all-around game that made him such an attractive prospect coming out of Michigan. In Ross, we'll see a different type of player, one whose physical ability is ahead of his present basketball skills. But he's such a fluid athlete and has shown signs of putting things together over the past year, making the former No. 8 overall pick out of the University of Washington a promising player to watch.
With (at least) 12 capable rotation players already on the roster (and a few others making strong cases to join them), the Knicks' coaching staff will continue to evaluate the roster as the season nears. Some veterans will rest tonight, giving others the chance to shine, including Hardaway and Beno Udrih, penciled in right now as the starting backcourt. Andrea Bargnani's back is feeling better, so Mike Woodson said he will play. Iman Shumpert (elbow) and Raymond Felton will sit, as could Pablo Prigioni, who came down with "a bug" over the last few days. Toure' Murry and Ike Diogu have emerged as candidates to watch for the last few roster spots, so we'll be watching to see how they perform with the spotlight on them.