Top Games to Watch: No. 8 Knicks vs. Raptors

Intradivision showdown could have playoff implications
by Charlie Widdoes

We're counting down the top 10 most exciting Knicks matchups for the upcoming season! Cast your vote on Twitter and Facebook using #NYKSaveTheDate.

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8) Knicks at Raptors (March 22, 2015)

To the surprise of many, the Toronto Raptors won the Atlantic Division by four games in 2013-14. Only a year removed from finishing in last place, they leapfrogged both New York teams by cobbling together a deep and balanced roster that ranked 10th in the NBA in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Now, by returning their top six rotation players -- all of whom are 27 or younger -- the Raps are no longer a sleeper in the Eastern Conference.

There was some thought that Toronto might reshuffle its roster this offseason, but by making multi-year commitments to Kyle Lowry and his backup/sometimes sidekick, Greivis Vasquez, general manager Masai Ujiri swiftly dashed other teams' hopes of poaching key facilitators of the Raptors' ascension. With the backcourt in place, promising young wings in All Star DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, and center Jonas Valančiūnas (who just turned 22 years old this summer), coach Dwayne Casey's squad is positioned to challenge last season's 48 wins.

There will be three weeks left in the the season when the Knicks travel to Toronto for this March 22nd matchup. By then, both teams expect to be in the thick of the playoff race, with the outcome of the game potentially looming large for postseason seeding. The Knicks will have had about five months to pick up the nuances of the Triangle Offense, while Toronto's young core will have that time to show any improvement as it aims to advance past the first round of the playoffs. 

We'll be about a month past the trade deadline, but barring any dramatic roster changes, all signs point to a compelling intradivision showdown -- the Raptors with the right mix of experience and upside against the Knicks' top-end talent and drive to bounce back from last season's disappointment.

After the game, New York will fly home to prepare for Memphis at the Garden the following night. A matchup with the Clippers looms two days later, followed by 10 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents to close out the regular season. 

Up next in the Top 10 Matchups countdown: The NBA's top two scorers square off in Oklahoma City.