Rockets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jerryd Bayless
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: James Johnson
PF: Andrea Bargnani
C: Aaron Gray
The New York Knicks are currently riding a three game winning streak and are undefeated since Mike Woodson took over as the team’s head coach. The offense is running smoothly, and most importantly, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are happy under Woodson.
The Knicks have beaten some solid teams during this winning streak, so they should easily take down the division opponent Raptors tonight.
Frontcourt: The Raptors’ front court has a little bit of both worlds as it has a defensive presence in Gray and two scorers in Bargnani and Johnson. At seven feet, Gray is a big body and has the ability to clog the paint. Gray can grab rebounds and can surely disrupt Stoudemire’s game if he is having his night. However, besides his size and rebounding skills, Gray does not have an impact on the game and should not be a focal point of the Knicks’ defensive strategies.
However, the Knicks should pay attention to Johnson and Raptors’ main star Andrea Bargnani. Johnson puts up around nine points a game and is shooting an impressive 44 percent from the field. Although Johnson does not put up the most points, he can catch fire in a hurry and could hurt the Knicks if he gets is going. As for Bargnani, he leads the Raptors in scoring with 20 a game and is the center piece of the offense. Bargnani will dominate the ball and can spread out the floor with his impressive shooting. If the Knicks want to walk away with another victory, they must make sure Bargnani does not have a big night. He has a history of performing well against the Knicks and can score points in a hurry.
Backcourt: With the usual starting point guard, Jose Calderon listed as day-to-day due to a sprained right ankle, the Raptors will be really depleted in their back-court. Although Bayless is a very good player and can offer the team with some nice scoring, he is not the playing making guard like Calderon is. Calderon has a knack for finding his teammates for open shots, and that is something Bayless has problems doing. The two-guard DeMar DeRozan is another one of the Raptors’ stars and he can score 20 points on any given night. DeRozan hurts opponents with his athleticism, so the Knicks must be ready to stop him in the open court.
Keys to Victory:
1. Improve on the defensive end: The Knicks have not played well on the defensive end this season and even with Woodson, this team has been sub-par on defense. The Raptors are not a very explosive scoring squad, so shutting them down on defense should result in a fairly easy victory.
2. Continue to feed the ball to Anthony and Stoudemire: The Mike Woodson offense relies on star players to beat opponents in isolation play, and so far, the system has been working for the Knicks. If the team wants to continue to shine, they must feed the ball to their two main players.