Knicks vs. Raptors 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
New York: Confidence and optimism was sky-high at Madison Square Garden Training Center on Monday afternoon. Following a day of rest from the back-to-back battles against the Pacers, the Knicks entered the practice facility with a sense of urgency. Only 20 games are left in the regular season and New York sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, just a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. Baron Davis remains questionable heading into the Tuesday contest against the Raptors as he deals with a strained hamstring. Aside from Davis and Bill Walker, the Knicks are healthy and prepared for an important stretch of games this week.
Toronto: Inconsistency has plagued the Raptors throughout the 2011-12 season. When examining Toronto’s schedule, just about every win was followed by a loss or consecutive defeats, halting any type of momentum for the 15-30 squad. Injuries have also played a major role in their current fourth place status in the Atlantic Conference. The latest setback is to point guard Jose Calderon as he day-to-day with an ankle injury. Toronto will enjoy the next 10 days with seven of its next nine games inside the Air Canada Centre.
Last Time Out
New York: While limiting the Pacers to just 14 fourth quarter points, the Knicks cruised to a 102-88 win on Saturday night.
Toronto: On Saturday night, the Raptors arrived in Charlotte just three hours before the game started due to mechanical problems on the team plane in Memphis the previous night. The lack of rest certainly played a part in Toronto’s 107-103 loss to the league’s worst team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Numbers Game
During the recent stretch of three wins, the Knicks forced a combined 60 turnovers (resulting in 82 points), only allowed an average of 89 points, 39.1 percent shooting from the floor, and outscored their opponents 112-89.
Match-up to Watch
Jeremy Lin vs. Jerryd Bayless
Normally the scouting report against the Raptors begins with Andrea Bargnani, Calderon, or even swing man DeMar DeRozan. However, over the last five games Jerryd Bayless has emerged as a major scoring threat for Toronto. Bayless started in four of those contests and he is shooting 18-for-37 from the 3-point arc in March. The former Arizona standout was considered a promising prospect out of college but he’s bounced around the league since arriving in the NBA three years ago. Bayless is an extremely strong and athletic combo guard that can either damage opponents off the bounce or deep on the perimeter as mentioned above. On the opposite side, Jeremy Lin hit some clutch buckets during a late game rally in a win over Indiana on Saturday night. After a dip in his numbers since the Linsanity craze, the Knicks point guard has seemed to regain his confidence and will be counted on to play major minutes with Davis suffering from his injury.
What to Look For
It’s hard to forget New York’s last meeting against the Raptors on February 14 in Toronto. Lin capped an incredible week with a pull-up game winner from downtown over Calderon. In the remarkable performance Lin scored 27 points and dished out 11 assists. Both teams have changed quite a bit since the previous matchup, especially the Knicks with the addition of J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony will get a crack at Toronto after missing the February contest. Also, New York is riding a three-game winning streak under interim head coach Mike Woodson fueled by a renewed sense of urgency and defensive intensity. The Raptors struggle to put points on the board, which should play directly into the hands of the Knicks in their search to turn missed shots and careless mistakes into offensive opportunities.