Tonight, Amar’e Stoudemire makes his return as the Knicks come into Toronto riding Linsanity on a five game winning streak. The Raptors defeated the Knicks 90-85 earlier this season at Madison Square Garden but that was a far different Knick team. The Knicks lost that game with no Amar’e Stoudemire and with Toney Douglas as the starting point guard. Tonight, Stoudemire returns and Douglas likely will play 0 minutes. The Knicks will be without Carmelo Anthony but they should be able to extend their winning streak to six games tonight.
Here’s what to watch for:
- How do STAT and Lin mesh? In Lin’s first impact game, last Saturday in New Jersey, Stoudemire recorded an efficient 17 points. Obviously Lin has had a phenomenal week and now defenses have to game plan for him on the pick and roll. I want to see how well Lin, who runs the pick and roll extremely well, and Stoudemire, the best pick and roll big man in the NBA, mesh together. In theory it should be a match made in heaven but we will see. Personally I think Stoudemire will start to play at an elite level along side Lin. The new Knicks point guard has far more skill and understanding of the pick and roll then ex-Knick point guard Raymond Felton. Alongside Felton for the first half of last season, Stoudemire was posting MVP type numbers and the Knicks were winning games. This year alongside Toney Douglas, who has no concept of how to play point guard, Stoudemire has been a shell of himself and has struggled all season. I think we will see the real Amar’e Stoudemire now that the Knicks have a legitimate point guard. As horrible and tragic as his brothers death was, Stoudemire did get a week off and I imagine he will have very fresh legs. Fresh legs and a legit point guard should cause STAT to return to the MVP candidate he was last season.
- Andrea Bargnani will be out tonight. Bargnani is Toronto’s best player and is averaging 23.5 points per game this season. He presents the Knicks difficulties defensively because of his ability to pull Chandler out of the paint due to his strong outside shooting game. With Bargnani out tonight, the Knicks defense still cannot go to sleep on Toronto. Mediocre players are infamous for killing the Knicks, i.e. Shannon Brown, Boris Diaw, Brandon Rush, etc. Without their best player, Toronto will play more team oriented offensive basketball and the Knicks must do a good job of stopping the Raptors. With a solid defensive effort, the Knicks should give up no more than 85 points and should win the game easily.
- The offensive game plan tonight. Against the Raptors earlier this season, the Knicks took 35 three pointers and made only 10. I am interested to see with Lin as the point guard, how the Knicks will attack Toronto. The Raptors are a very mediocre team (17th in defensive PER) defensively and the Knicks should be able to attack them in the pick and roll. Aaron Gray, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson do not make up an elite interior defense and the Knicks should be able to attack them inside. This isn’t like playing the Heat where D’Antoni had to have the team jack up 3’s just to have a chance to stay in the game. The new Lin powered offense should be able to dominate Toronto tonight.
- Can somebody please stop Jose Calderon? Over his past three games, Calderon has averaged 18.6 points per game and 11.7 assists per game. Against the Knicks earlier this year, Calderon carved up the Knicks with 12 assists. Unless he plays the Lakers, Calderon won’t score 30 points but his uncanny ability to get others involved and rack up assists could give the Knicks some problems tonight. In that first Toronto game, the Knicks allowed the Raptors to shoot 7/17 from outside the arc and that was the difference in the game. Linsanity is in full effect but that doesn’t mean Toronto is going to lay down tonight. They will give 100% effort and if the Knicks cannot stop Calderon from distributing all over the floor, they may be in trouble. I do not think the Knicks will let Calderon kill them tonight but he definitely must be stopped tonight.
- Here’s a picture of Landry Fields in a snuggie: