By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Raptors | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (36-45): The Knicks go for their fourth straight win -- all against playoff-bound opponents -- as they close out their season on Fan Appreciation Night at Madison Square Garden tonight. They'll be playing for pride, said Tim Hardaway Jr. after scoring a team high 16 points in last night's victory in Brooklyn. Amar'e Stoudemire also stressed that tonight's contest will be about putting on a fun show for the fans who supported the team all season.
As coach Mike Woodson rested some of his veterans (Carmelo Anthony did not dress because of a small tear to his right labrum and Tyson Chandler played only the game's first five minutes), a handful of players seized opportunities to play extended minutes against the Nets; Cole Aldrich was the player of the game, netting 13 points and 13 rebounds in less than 26 minutes, and Toure' Murry again flashed his potential running the team, with nine points, five assists and three steals in just under 22 minutes.
Toronto (48-33): The Raptors finish up a successful regular season tonight, during which they won the Atlantic Division and seized the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs despite trading away their two highest-paid players. They are on pace to be one of four teams to finish in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency -- surprisingly the only one from the East. Kyle Lowry has evolved from talented player to team leader, young wings DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross have both taken steps forward and the underrated front court duo of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas makes them a difficult matchup for any team in the playoffs.
The Numbers Game
Courtesy of our own Jonah Ballow:
Matchup to Watch
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Terrence Ross
Hardaway caught fire in Brooklyn, draining 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point line in the win against the Nets. It's been a long season for the rookie, who joined the rotation sooner than anyone expected and fought through the infamous "Rookie Wall" by maintaining a consistent approach to the game. Tonight marks the final contest of his rookie campaign, for which he's likely to be awarded a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie team. Going out on a high note in front of his adoring home fans would be a nice way for the precocious neophyte to cap off a successful first year.
What to Look For
With the news that Anthony suffered a small tear to his right labrum, it's unlikely that Woodson will risk playing his superstar in tonight's finale. Chandler may not play much, either, so expect to see more of Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler -- both of whom were effective against the Nets. Stoudemire played 20 minutes last night, and while he could be a candidate for rest, he noted that all the time he's missed over the last few years due to injury make him want to play when he is physically able to. As a result of Anthony and Chandler (and potentially Stoudemire) being limited, Woodson used four-guard lineups for a majority of the game, which made for a highlight-filled attack and a fun viewing experience.