Both the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors are on three-game winning streaks looking to extend on Monday evening when they prepared to face off against one another.
The Knicks are coming off a resilient victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, and Toronto has beaten the Indiana Pacers twice in the last three games, including a victory over the Orlando Magic nuzzled in-between. The Knicks’ schedule has been far more grueling to open the year, but that makes Toronto no lesser of an opponent as they sit 4â€“3, 1.5 games back from New York in the Atlantic standings.
Nonetheless, letâ€™s take a look at how the Knicks can overcome Toronto for their fourth straight victory.
Three keys for the Knicks to beat Toronto:
1.) Contain Fred VanVleet
Toronto has several quality players they lean on, including guard Fred VanVleet. In the team’s most recent victory over Indiana, VanVleet played in 39 minutes, scoring 16 points and picking up four assists. On the year, he is averaging 17 points per game, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals and is shooting 41.7% from the field. However, heâ€™s connecting on just 33.3% from range.
VanVleet represents one of their catalyst players, sparking offensive momentum and production. If the Knicks can lock him down and force low percentage shots, they can emerge victorious in this contest and continue their impressive streak. Expect to see a lot of zone defense as they try to clog driving lanes and force Toronto to beat them with the 3-ball, which has been inefficient this year.
2.) High percentage 3-PT shooting
Compared to the Knicks, Toronto is a poor three-point shooting team, hovering at 32.5% on the year. The Knicks rank 2nd in the NBA at 40.7%, and when their 3s are dropping, beating them is nearly impossible.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau indicated that he wants his team to take high percentage looks from beyond on the arc instead of heaving up 3s just for the sake of reaching their desired attempts.
â€œI donâ€™t want to take reckless [shots] and race it up â€¦ just to jack up 3s. Thatâ€™s not what weâ€™re trying to do,â€ head coach Tom Thibodeau said. â€œI think itâ€™s taking the right shots and being disciplined about it and doing it together.
Ultimately, when New York shoots above 38% from range, they emerge with a win. The Raptors are such a poor three-point shooting team, the Knicks should have no problem beating them in that category at home.
3.) Get into Toronto’s bench
Most teams seem to be top-heavy on the Knicks’ schedule, and that has given New York an incredible advantage with their superb depth. Playing up-tempo basketball and forcing teams to dip into their reserves is exactly how the Knicks want to play, giving their starters ample rest while allowing their second-team unit to dominate opposing reserves.
The Raptors were forced to use their depth in 89 minutes this past game, while the Knicks landed at 70 against the Pelicans. Getting them on the floor more frequently will give Tom Thibodeauâ€™s team an advantage. The fact the Knicks have three bench players averaging over 7.3 points per game is quite impressive.