Game Preview: Raptors at Knicks
The Raptors have a quick turnaround as they face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a back-to-back on Monday night. Toronto is coming off a 112-106 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers while the Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109 on Saturday.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 / TSN1050
Despite just two games in a Raptors uniform, P.J. Tucker is excited about the defensive potential he's seeing. Playing the entire fourth quarter in each of his two games since being traded to Toronto, Tucker spoke about the ease of transition following Toronto's 112-106 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"It's unbelievable," Tucker said. "I really like it, especially with me and [DeMarre Carroll] switching all the stuff. We're making them take tough contested 2's and then being able to push back at the other end with Serge at the 5 being able to take the rim, it's a pretty good lineup."
DeMar DeRozan also had rave reviews for the team's newest additions, singling out the impact Serge Ibaka has had on the team's defence.
"Oh man, defensively altering and blocking shots, able to switch out on wings, point guards and able to knock down shots," DeRozan said.
It can be difficult to integrate new players in the middle of the season, but Tucker and Ibaka are both veterans. DeRozan pointed to their experience as a reason why the transition has been so smooth.
"It's everything," he said. "Just having the knowledge, being in the league, being in every situation you can think of and just knowing. There's not much you've got to say to them guys, [they're] going to speak up with their opinion and what they feel is best out there and we get it on the go."
Points guards working
Toronto has been without Kyle Lowry in its previous two games because the All-Star is dealing with a sore right wrist. Although his status for Monday's game is unknown, head coach Dwane Casey has been pleased with the effort given from Cory Joseph and Delon Wright as they step up in his absence.
Joseph has started in place of Lowry, coming up with big performances on both ends of the floor. Wright has served as his back up, providing a boost off the bench as he continues to find his rhythm following an extended layoff following shoulder surgery. After a shaky start on Sunday, Wright settled in, scoring 11 points off the bench in 15 minutes.
[He] did a great job coming in and being aggressive in the minutes he got, taking his shots and I just try to do the same thing," Joseph said. "Obviously with Kyle out we know we've got to step up. Hopefully we'll continue to do it."
Casey was impressed with each of his point guards in the last two victories.
"[Delon] did an excellent job, under control in the second stint," Casey said. "The first stint he was kind of helter-skelter a little bit but a young kid, he still did a good job. He's just now getting back in the NBA rhythm and I like the way he played the second stint when he came in.
"Those guys did a good job. Not having our queen bee in there, our top guy able to handle the ball offensively, defensively, three-point shooting, we miss that part of it [without Kyle], but Cory did a heckuva job of attacking the rim, getting to the basket, running the offence, defensively chasing around [Damian] Lillard.
DeRozan stepping up
With one All-Star down, another has stepped up. DeMar DeRozan has been fantastic for Toronto in its previous two games with Kyle Lowry sidelined. In the first game without Lowry, DeRozan exploded for a career-high 43 points. On Sunday, he scored a game-high 33 points. Over his previous two games, DeRozan is averaging 38 points on 55 percent shooting. Despite playing with new teammates, and carrying a bigger offensive load, he has managed to pick his spots well and let the game come to him.
"He's accepting the double-team and doing a good job of kicking it out," Casey said. "He's done a good job of finding his niche, finding his rhythm within the offence."
Although Toronto has been without Lowry, the addition of Serge Ibaka has been huge on both ends of the floor. With Lowry out, DeRozan has been extra appreciative of his presence.
"He takes a lot of pressure off," DeRozan said. "Teams just understanding you've got to pick and choose. We have another weapon out there that teams have to worry about."