By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Clippers | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks won't able to complete their goal of going 9-2 in the 11 games leading up to the All-Star break, but with a win tonight, they could finish 8-3. Most importantly, they'd remain in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, still positioned to make a run at Miami in the second half. To do so, they'll have to do a better job containing penetration than they did against the Clippers on Sunday, who gashed them with Chris Paul (25 points) and then Jamal Crawford (27).
Toronto: The Raptors made the first big splash of trading season when they swung a deal with Memphis for swingman Rudy Gay. So far, the results have been positive. They are 4-2 since acquiring Gay, including wins quality wins over the Pacers and Nuggets last night. They are six games out of the playoffs, but their point differential on the season suggests they are better than their record, and between Gay and uber-talented point guard Kyle Lowry, coach Dwane Casey's team is dangerous.
Last Time Out
New York: Despite 42 points from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks fell to the Clippers by a score of 102-88.
Toronto: The Raptors beat the red-hot Nuggets, 109-108, last night for their third win in a row.
The Numbers Game
The Raptors' identity has flip-flopped since last season. In 2011-12, they finished 29th in offensive efficiency but 14th on defense. This year, they have struggled to stop people (26th on D), but they are scoring the ball efficiently (10th on offense) and that only figures to improve with the addition of Gay.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Jonas Valanciunas
When the Raptors selected then 18-year old Valanciunas with the 5th pick in the 2011 draft, many believed that they had found themselves a young Tyson Chandler. They, theymselves, were so excited about his potential as a defensive game-changer that they were willing to wait a year for him to come to the NBA from Lithuania. Cut from the same mold as Chandler, Valanciunas makes his money by setting hard screens and diving hard to the rim. He is still raw offensively, but he's showing signs of the defensive prowess, both as a pick-and-roll big and rim protector, that has made the Knicks' center an All-Star.
What to Look For
As we've said, the Knicks had trouble defending the wings on Sunday. In Gay and young shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, Toronto brings two more who will look to attack with the ball. Lowry, now the starting point guard again with the trade of Jose Calderon, is dynamic with his ability to score and create for others, so keeping him out of the lane will be a priority...The Knicks got another standout performance from Anthony against the Clips, but they will need others to step up if they hope to stop the Raptors' roll. Melo and Raymond Felton were the only ones to score in double figures, a sign that ball movement was not up to the Knicks' usual standards.