It was no doubt a happy group of Raptors flying to New York after Rudy Gay did it again and helped them win. After the game last night he was searching for a ride to the airport being new around here probably not familiar with the route to Pearson International. Safe to say the Raptors flight to New York was not leaving without him.
The Raptors as strange as the NBA schedule can be face their division rivals the Knicks for the first time this season in Mid-February. Way back in October when the Raptors met the Knicks in Montreal for an exhibition game you could have had no clue what would happen for both these teams to start the season. On that night the Raptors steamrolled a Knicks squad that looked lost. The Knicks would storm out of the gate to start the season. While the Raptors great pre-season would long be forgotten after a 4-13 first month of the season.
Why the Knicks have been successful comes down to guys buying into some things. Carmelo Anthony has finally come to realize it takes a team effort to win games. While Amare Stoudamire who missed the Knicks big start to the season with injury came back to the team and came off the bench. Understanding that it was what was best and accepting that role.
It is not unlike what the Raptors are asking of Andrea Bargnani to do. The amount of success remains to be determined for Bargnani in this new role. Bargnani did not look good in a win over the Nuggets and is said to battling the flu. He is also battling a fan base that is pretty much fed up with him. There is no denying that on a given night at the ACC you could have more people willing to boo Andrea than cheer him. Many fans have fingers crossed that by next Thursday Andrea Bargnani will no longer be their problem. It seems difficult to imagine a deal that makes sense for the Raptors materializing prior to the trade deadline. It seems more likely a deal that could go down in the summer rather than at the deadline.
This is the first of four contests with Knicks starting tonight at MSG. Despite being the home of perhaps the Raptors most famous road win of all-time it has not been a place that has offered them a great deal of success over the years. Just 12-21 all-time in New York but one of those wins did come last season as the teams split the season series 2-2 with each winning once on the other team’s home floor. The Raptors 6-19 road record is the major reason they are an outsider in terms of the playoff race in the East.
Defending the three point arc will be vital for both sides in this one. The Raptors were hot from distance down the stretch allowing them to be in position to have Gay be the hero at the end of last night in Toronto. New York sits second in the east and are winners of 7 of their last 10 games. They have a 19-7 record at MSG so far this season.
It should be interesting as this will be the last game before an All-Star Break in which a lot of players you could tell were looking forward to it last night. But they will enjoy that break more entering it with a 4 game win streak. The Raptors are on a roll and looking to have a one like they did to close 2012. They need many extended runs like this if they want anyone to take them seriously in the playoff hunt.