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Bewildered Knicks Host Red-Hot, Conference-Leading Raptors

Photo: via Knicks.com
The Raptors have clinched a spot in the playoffs while the Knicks are trying to calculate what lottery spot they’ll be picking from. The squads clash Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

The New York Knicks (24–42) host the conference-leading Toronto Raptors (48–17) on Sunday afternoon, in a matchup of two teams in very different places at the moment. The Knicks, of course, are mired in a tanktastic final month of the season, losers of six games in a row and 14 of 15 overall. Toronto, on the other hand, carries a seven-game win streak into the Garden and on the heels of an impressive home win versus Houston on Friday, snapping the Rockets’ 17-game streak. The Raps have taken nine of 10 overall as Dwayne Casey’s squad gears up for an expected deep playoff run.

That said, here are some other things to look for today:


Benching Bucket

Michael Beasley’s struggles since the All-Star break have been well publicized, and he hasn’t seemed to thrilled about things in the last few weeks. His 16 points in Portland last Tuesday were fine, but he’s averaged just 4.8 points per game in four of the last five games. How he finishes the season will (fairly or unfairly) determine the overall narrative for his “comeback” season.

Mudiay, come out a play

Emmanuel Mudiay played well in the Friday’s hard-fought loss to Milwaukee (19 points, 50 percent FG), but that came after a rough three-game stretch in which he failed to hit double-digit points. More worryingly, he’s just 4-of-27 (14.8 percent) from downtown in a Knickerbocker uniform. Ideally, he would use the season’s final weeks to build some confidence from deep in his (kind of) extended audition for the future starting point guard role.

10-day Troy

Troy Williams had a career-high 18 points (7-of-14 FG) in Milwaukee, and has been a lone bright spot during this rough finish. Keep feeding him, Jeff!

No-Glory-Ball

For the Raps, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have simply been awesome recently. Lowry has averaged 16.9 points, 7.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds over his last 10 contests, while DeRozan (24.0 points, 5.1 assists, 47.5 percent shooting) has emerged as a down-ballot MVP candidate, thanks to his improved efficiency and three-point range. They’re also physically tough matchups—for anyone—and the young Knicks backcourt, especially Frank Ntilikina, should embrace the challenge.

Toronto’s improved pace (12th in the league) and bench mob have been major factors in the team’s success this season. The five-man lineup of C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet have unexpectedly been one of the league’s most entertaining and effective units, outscoring opponents by almost 30(!) points per 100 possessions—far away the best rate in basketball.

And finally… it’s an early Sunday afternoon tip-off in New York City. Who will be the most hungover?

Happy Sunday, everybody!

UPDATE 12:51 p.m. EST.

Enes Kanter will not be active today versus Toronto, per NorthJersey’s Chris Iseman.

Staff Writer

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