By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Raptors | Air Canada Centre
When: Saturday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (9-20): For 36 minutes last night, the Knicks managed to outplay the Raptors despite it all; Carmelo Anthony missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle, and both Iman Shumpert (thigh contusion) and J.R. Smith (flu-like symptoms) played at less than 100 percent. Tyson Chandler was even forced to sit when he picked up his second foul just over a minute into the game, but heading into the 4th quarter, New York held a 5-point lead on the division-leading Raptors. Then, as Mike Woodson and many of his players said after the game, legs got heavy and execution suffered on both ends of the floor. Four Knicks (Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Smith) logged more than 37 minutes, and ultimately the workload took its toll in the loss.
Toronto (12-15): The Raptors were able to outlast the Knicks on Friday thanks to their depth and the strong play of promising youngsters Jonas Valanciunas (16 points, 18 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (25 points on 13 shots). While they don't have a true "superstar," trading Rudy Gay has positioned them as legitimate contenders in the Atlantic Division with staying power by giving talented players an opportunity to shine.
The Numbers Game
Bargnani set a new personal Knicks high with 12 rebounds against his former club on Friday.
Matchup to Watch
J.R. Smith vs. DeMar DeRozan
Both teams look to their starting shooting guards for scoring punch. While their shooting lines looked nearly identical on Friday (DeRozan shot 7-for-13, Smith 7-for-15), DeRozan outproduced Smith by getting to the free throw line 14 times to Smith's two. As a team, Toronto shot 33 free throws to New York's 21. As they go at it tonight, the Knicks need Smith to score efficiently if they hope to make up ground in the division.
What to Look For
Anthony is not with the team, so it will again be up to Smith, Bargnani and Co. to produce offense. Woodson leaned heavily on a small handful of guys on Friday and said that he expects to use Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire more tonight. Shumpert, who started but played only 12 minutes, could be a bigger factor on both ends if his thigh allows... The Knicks will have to do a better job in the possession battle if they hope to win. Not only were they outrebounded, 50-42, but they committed the same amount of turnovers (16) as Toronto -- an area they usually dominate.