By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
Saturday, December 28th, 2013
New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors
The Knicks will look to salvage the home-and-home with the Toronto Raptors tonight after losing 95-83 Friday night. This game is of the utmost importance for the Knicks as they need to start mounting some division wins if they plan to take advantage of what is the worst division in sports. Here are some things to keep an eye on in the game tonight.
-Injury News and Updates
The Knicks will have to find a way to score once again without Carmelo Anthony. Anthony will miss his third straight game, as he did not even make the trip to Toronto with the team. Anthony’s ankle injury has proved too much for him to take the court for the better part of the last week. Anthony will be sorely missed as they have been outscored by an average of 20.5 points per game without their leading scorer.
Anthony is not the only player who is dealing with injuries as Iman Shumpert is battling a thigh injury. He fought through it last night but he is questionable tonight as he did not perform well Friday. Amar’e Stoudemire also is struggling with some swelling in his right wrist the past two games but is supposed to be ready to go Saturday.
For the Raptors we will see if former Knicks Steve Novak and Landry Fields will take the court against them tonight. Neither player received any minutes Friday night, and have not for the last seven games; since the trade with the Sacramento Kings that sent out Rudy Gay the Raptors have been using their new, higher ceiling players in Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and John Salmons.
-Bargnani Returns to Toronto
Andrea Bargnani will be making his first return to Toronto since the trade this offseason that landed him with the Knicks. Bargnani had a tumultuous tenure with the Raptors after being the first overall pick in 2006; a combination of injuries and poor player caused the fans to turn on him and Bargnani crumble under the pressure of being a top pick.
Bargnani can expect a rude welcoming when he takes the court Saturday night as the fans grew tired of Bargnani the longer he was there. On the other hand he may receive the greatest ovation of any player this season in Toronto as the Raptor faithful are happy that he is gone.
The biggest slap in the face Bargnani can give the Raptors is him playing well and leading the Knicks to a victory. With Anthony out the Knicks need someone to carry the scoring load and Bargnani should be the man; he will be as motivated as ever to show the crowd in Toronto he was worth the first overall draft pick they used on him.
-Matchup of the Game: JR Smith vs. DeMar DeRozan
Without Anthony the Knicks need Smith to pick up some of the scoring slack left behind; he is capable of it but how he gets the points will be the thing to keep an eye on. Friday night Smith and DeRozan matched up and had similar shooting nights; Smith was 7-15 and DeRozan 7-13. But there was an eight point difference in points as DeRozan took permanent residency at the free throw line, taking 14 attempts. Smith on the other hand only had two.
Smith has been better recently facilitating the offense but needs to stay aggressive when he is looking to score the basketball. Smith was at his best last season when he was attacking the basket and getting to the foul line. Smith and the rest of the wing players also have to step up the effort on the defensive end as DeRozan and John Salmons hurt the Knicks Friday night from the perimeter.