New York looks to avoid tying a single-season franchise record 16th straight loss as the Knicks welcome Marc Gasol and the Raptors.
Coming off of a very up-and-down loss last night in Detroit, the Knicks (10-44) look to get back in the win column for the first time since January 4th. With the Knicks’ sights clearly set on securing the worst record possible for draft lottery purposes, it is unrealistic to expect them to be competitive against a Canadian powerhouse in the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto comes into this game with a 40-16 record, good for second place in the Eastern Conference. After a deadline deal that brought them Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies, the Raptors look more formidable than ever and should give the Knicks fits tonight. With Kawhi Leonard expected to play along with the newest Raptor, Gasol, Toronto will be at full strength heading into the Garden this evening.
The Raptors, under rookie head coach Nick Nurse, are one of the few teams that are truly well-rounded, ranking in the top-10 in the NBA in both Offensive and Defensive Rating, per NBA Stats. Leonard has had an outstanding season as the new face of the franchise, scoring 27.3 points per game and continuing his reign as one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. Alongside Leonard, Pascal Siakam has had an incredible year, and looks to be a bright rising star who kills opponents with his length and athleticism. With the savvy Kyle Lowry running the point and two incredibly skilled bigs in Serge Ibaka and Gasol, the Raptors are loaded.
In New York’s Friday night game against the Pistons, Dennis Smith Jr. erupted for a career-high 31 points and was a huge reason why the Knicks kept the game close for a long time. Smith’s recent arrival to New York brought along a mixed bag of emotions from fans, but thus far he has been a breath of fresh air for the Knicks, who are looking to latch onto anything positive as their season continues to go down the tubes.
Good morning to nobody—absolutely nobody—except Dennis Smith Jr. pic.twitter.com/KIhEsRExio
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 9, 2019
With all the roster moves the Knicks made recently, DSJ is arguably New York’s best player, and is clearly talented enough to be a star in the league. Smith’s “punch you in the mouth” mentality bodes well for the Knicks and shows he isn’t backing down.
The only way the Knicks keep the game remotely close tonight is if DSJ replicates his performance from last night: attacking the basket and hitting his perimeter shots. Kyle Lowry, who ranks second among point guards in defensive real plus-minus, presents a unique challenge for Dennis, who looks to keep the Knicks competitive tonight.
While it’s unclear where DSJ fits into the Knicks’ future plans, for now he is a bright young athletes looking to establish himself throughout the rest of the year.
Mitch Rob vs. the Bigs
Toronto presents their own version of the twin towers in Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, which will be tough for Mitchell Robinson to handle. Both Raptors bigs can stretch the floor, shoot jumpers, and are also very adept in the post game. Robinson, who has been developing nicely over the past month, needs to make sure to stay out of foul trouble and be a challenge to these guys’ shots.
Robinson has been extremely good at blocking shots outside of 14 feet this season, and has looked increasingly more active on the glass recently—an excellent sign for the Knicks, who are in desperate need of some athleticism and defense.
Robinson was unable to contain Andre Drummond in the two previous games, and tonight presents an even bigger challenge, given that Ibaka and Gasol can shoot. Regardless of the outcome, this is a valuable experience for Mitch, who could one day be on the level of Toronto’s big men counterparts.