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New York tries to stop the Vinsanity one more time
First Round Encore
By Chris Ford analyst Chris Ford previews the first-round series between the Knicks and the Raptors.

The Cambyman can - and must - for the Knicks to be successful.
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Three Things For New York:
  • Marcus Camby needs to be healthy. Without him, the Knicks become much less athletic and much less of a post threat.
  • Utilize outside scoring advantage. The Knicks have a host of perimeter shooters who can cause problems for the Raptors and all need to step up in the playoffs, including Glen Rice.
  • Keep their cool. This isn't a rivalry of Knicks-Heat proportions but tempers started to bubble in the series last year and it's going to be a physical series. New York doesn't want to lose players to silly technical tantrums.

    Three Things For Toronto:
  • Vince Carter has to show up this year, but at the same time, he can't try to do too much all by himself.
  • Need to find an outside shooter. The defense will crowd Vince Carter and also sag to the middle if the Raptors don't find another shooter to step up and command respect.
  • Remember what they learned last year. This is a different Raptors team, one now with playoff experience and they shouldn't make it as easy for the Knicks as they did last year.

    Marquee Matchup: Latrell Sprewell vs. Vince Carter
    Carter and Sprewell might cancel each other out and leave the series to be decided by the rest of their teammates. It will be interesting. I think that Carter is probably a more consistent scorer than Sprewell, who is more of a streak shooter. When Sprewell gets hot, he gets on a hell of a roll. But Carter is a consistent scorer. It's going to be very difficult for Carter to carry the load offensively himself. Some other guys are going to have to find ways to score. It will be interesting to see how the Raptors come up with these points because I think in a playoff series, teams can shut down a superstar. Teams always come up with ways of shutting down the superstar. I just don't know if there is enough firepower offensively to pick it up if New York is able to shut down Carter. Whereas with the Knicks, they have other offensive players. If Sprewell is not hot, maybe Allan Houston and Rice will get hot, or Camby will have a big game. You look at the roster over on Toronto's side and you don't see that. Carter is going to have to produce big each and every game.

    New York's Offensive Approach:
    The big factor for the Knicks is, will Camby be healthy and able to go? Larry Johnson is a big question mark for the Knicks, but Camby is the guy they really need. When he's not in there they really miss his athleticism, his ability to block shots, run and score in the paint. It's a whole different concept for New York when he's not in the game. So Camby is a vital link in the playoff run for the Knicks. But Kurt Thomas has always come off and done well when he is called upon. He might be thrust into the starting lineup. Even if Johnson is healthy, the Knicks might go with the front line of Thomas and Camby. I've always liked Othella Harrington and I think he's a guy who can do things in this series and really help the Knicks if given the chance.

    I like the Knicks chances because I like their perimeter game. I think with the offensive players in Houston, Sprewell and Rice I think they have a lot more firepower, and particularly from the perimeter, than the Raptors. Even though it will be a low scoring series, I think those three guys have more than enough firepower from the perimeter. It will be interesting to see how Rice is used in this series and how much time he gets and how many touches he gets. I think in order for the Knicks to have some success they're going to have to make sure that Rice gets enough shots to be effective out there.

    Toronto's Offensive Approach:
    Toronto has a lot to prove. Carter didn't play all the well in the playoffs last year against New York, for whatever reason -- being nervous, first time, whatever. He's going to be out there trying to prove that he can play and produce in the playoffs. The Raptors have a very good inside front line with Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley. I also think two guys who will also help in this series off the bench are their replacements: Keon Clark and Jerome Williams. They bring a lot of energy and athletic ability. Clark has given the Raptors the lively body of the big guy who can block shots and really cause some havoc on the defensive boards. So the front line is pretty good and matches up really well against the front line of Camby, Thomas, Johnson and Harrington. It will be a war in the paint with this group.

    The big problem for the Raptors that I foresee is, who else will knock down perimeter shots for them? Who is going to be the consistent outside threat? Morris Peterson at the two-guard spot, a rookie, has been up and down. He has struggled a little bit of late. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to this. I just see the Raptors lacking here on the outside. Dell Curry and Tracy Murray, off the bench, have firepower capabilities, but it's hard to say how much will they be used and when will they be used. Other than those two guys off the bench Toronto have a lot of firepower.

    Poised For A Big Series:
    I think Oakley is a key player for the Raptors. He has to do his rebounding as always and play solid defense. But I think Oakley is also going to have to knock down that 15-18 foot shot which he likes to take. It's a set jump shot that he's really comfortable with. Oakley is going to have to score points for the Raptors -- not a lot of points -- but he's going to have to be a factor offensively.

    Intriguing Subplots:
    This series will be interesting because of the trade of Chris Childs for Mark Jackson on Feb. 23. Everyone will be watching to see how those two guys will react playing against one another and the situation with Childs coming back to New York. He has promised to keep his mouth shut, just play and not cause any problems. I'll believe it when I see it.

    I think the Raptors will put up more of a fight this year, but I'm still going with the Knicks. In four.

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