The Knicks have a chance to redeem themselves for last month’s blowout to the Raptors and Wednesday’s terrible showing against the Pacers.

The New York Knicks (12-13) travel to Scotiabank Arena to face the Toronto Raptors (11-14). This will be the second matchup between the two teams, with the Raptors defeating the Knicks 113-104 on November 1st at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The roller coaster continues. After a strong victory over San Antonio on Monday, New York was drubbed by Indiana by 20 points on Wednesday, falling back under .500. We are now 25 games into the season and the Knicks are 15th in Offensive Rating and 25th in Defensive Rating, via NBA Stats, which brings into question several concerns about the Knicks as we move into the second quarter of the season.

Tom Thibodeau made his first move, swapping Kemba Walker for Alec Burks in the starting lineup, then, he swapped Mitchell Robinson for Nerlens Noel as the team’s starting center. Both moves give Thibodeau more comfort with veterans in his top lineup. It’s too soon to say whether those moves will save the Knicks or not, but they’re decent attempts.

With the trade restrictions lifted as of December 15th, allowing players signed this past offseason to be moved in trade, New York should continue to access their roster, but a slight pivot to being sellers wouldn’t be the worst move in the world. With New York sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference, playing the buyers-and-sellers fence could be the way to go, with giving younger talents on the roster more minutes and a chance in the second half of the season.

But for now, let’s talk about the Raptors, a team the Knicks are in direct competition for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

After a 110-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Raptors sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Pascal Siakam has returned to the lineup and continues to be effective, but their recent slide has to do with the injury of OG Anunoby. With Anunoby out, rookie Scottie Barnes has received more minutes, but the team’s defense has taken a step back.

Even without the former Hoosier, Toronto leans on their backcourt combination of Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet. VanVleet offers defense and ball-handling, while Trent Jr. has made strides as a defender, but is known for his outside shooting prowess. The trio of VanVleet, Trent Jr, and Saikam is still a formidable one and once Anunoby returns, Toronto should be back in the thick of the play-in race.

For New York, this is another matchup where they play a similar team. Indiana and New York matchup well, but the Raptors are probably closer, with both teams in the middle of the pack offensively, bottom 10 defensively, and playing a slower game with both bringing up the rear in terms of pace. The Anunoby injury could be lucky for the Knicks, who could use some at the moment, but Toronto could very easily take this one if the shots from the outside begin to fall.

What to Watch

RJ Barrett figuring it out: I’m curious to see how Barrett does against rookie Scottie Barnes, as longer defenders tend to give Barrett trouble. If Toronto doesn’t assign the rookie to Barrett, I’m curious to see him handle Trent Jr. and VanVleet, as he should have the strength advantage against both.

The second unit offense: Consider me intrigued to see how Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin push the pace against Toronto’s second unit. Rose should be able to get several looks at the rim, while Toppin thrives off of energy and hustle. Toronto is currently 28th in pace, meaning New York should try to push the tempo and get them to run. Those minutes will be key for New York.

Avoiding another slow start: Toronto is 20th in defensive efficiency, but they have several talented individual defenders, enough to muck things up for New York’s starting unit. The Knicks will have to be aggressive in starting strong. This could be a moment where Julius Randle can carry the Knicks before substitutions.


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