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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 06.04.11
Knicks run over Raptors
Amir Johnson's unsung improvement
This one was bad from the very start.
At one end, Carmelo Anthony was hitting everything he tried, most of it from distance. At the other, the Raptors collectively began the game 0-for-9 from the field, not scoring until the game was over four minutes old.
It wasn’t hard to tell which team was bound for the playoff and which was booking tee times for late next week as the Knicks rolled over the Raptors for the fourth time this season, 131-118.
It was a drastic freefall from the feel-good weekend the Raptors were just coming off when they gave the Bulls everything they could handle in a near loss on Saturday and then turned around and downed the playoff-bound Orlando Magic the following night at the Air Canada Centre.
In his pre-game chat with the media, Triano was asked a hypothetical question by a member of the New York media.
“If you were to face the Knicks in the playoffs how would you game plan for them?” Triano was asked.
The first words out of Triano’s mouth were “Protect the three-point line.”
It’s the exact same message he delivered to his Raptors at the morning shootaround and before the game.
Clearly no one chose to heed that advice.
“Hey, they shot the ball well, but at the same time you can’t be giving them open looks,” Triano said. “That’s what this team wants to get. They were what, 12-of-16 (from distance) at the half. I don’t know if we can do that in an empty gym.”
Raptors fall to Knicks in the Big Apple
Quietly and effectively, Johnson has figured out how to stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game without giving up any of his aggression and energy.
Early on it was a near game-by-game issue with Johnson to the point where Jay Triano and his coaching staff would provide Johnson with day-after-the-game tape of every foul he committed the night before.
“You don’t want to take that aggressiveness or ability to chase away but he’s just become a lot smarter about how to use his fouls and how to play without fouling,” Triano said.
Johnson welcomed those day-after film sessions because they showed him how silly and avoidable some of the fouls were to the point now where the film sessions are no longer necessary and Johnson himself rarely thinks about foul trouble any more.
Most of Johnson’s fouls were committed when he was coming over to help a teammate on his man. Most of them were either reaching in or pushing an opponent or even grabbing him to either prevent a basket or keep a defender off one of his teammates who was looking to score.
“Sometimes I do still pick up some silly fouls but I’m getting better,” Johnson said. “The key is don’t anticipate the foul. Just play your game. I’ve got better about jumping with my hands straight up instead of reaching in too.”
Johnson admits he has still got his tricks of the trade that are either at or beyond the lines of playing within the rules like every veteran NBA defender, but it’s a matter of choosing when the right time to try something like that is rather than just trying to get away with it on every possession.
“It’s a matter of being smarter with where to reach and when to gamble and play straight up and defend the rim,” Triano explained.
It’s one more example of an area where the Raptors have made strides in a season in which progress has been measured in baby steps rather than huge leaps.
Knicks rout Raptors
The Knicks, who shot 58 per cent from the field and got a team-high 28 points from backup guard Toney Douglas, made 14 of 25 three-pointers. The visitors, led by DeMar DeRozan’s 36 points and 10 rebounds and Ed Davis’s career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, trailed by as many as 29 points before a fourth-quarter run made the score more respectable.
“They were 12 of 16 (from three-point range) at the half — I don’t know if we can do that in an empty gym by ourselves,” Triano said. “But they do. And we didn’t take (the three-pointer) away from them until the second half.”
Still, the win-loss record isn’t particularly important to a team headed to the draft lottery; it’s the progress of young players like Johnson that amounts to the measure of the campaign. If Johnson’s improvement curve hasn’t been as steep as some would like, certainly you can cite his near-season-long battle with a nagging back injury, not to mention a current tangle with a sore ankle.
And if he still is prone to fouling too often, perhaps that’s because Triano is bent on not removing the aggression from Johnson’s game.
“We’ve even said to him, ‘When you go back in, you can’t play like you’ve got two fouls. We need you to be the aggressive player that you are,’ ” Triano said. “And I think he’s responded fairly well to that. He’s smarter with when to reach and when to gamble, and when to play straight up and defend the rim.”
Knicks show worn-out Raptors no mercy
DeMar DeRozan had 36 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who played without Jose Calderon (strained left hamstring), Leandro Barbosa (sore right pinky finger), or much fight in the first half. Two days after knocking off Orlando to snap a six-game losing streak, the Raptors never led and trailed by as many as 29.
New York (39-38) moved back above .500, where it spent most of the season before nine losses in 10 games last month dropped the Knicks three games under. They were in sixth place for months before that slump dropped them to the No. 7 spot. With Boston and Miami tied for second, New York may not know until next week which team it would play in its return to the playoffs, so the players largely agreed the seeding doesn't matter. But they'd like to move up, anyway.
“It's just something we want to do,” coach Mike D'Antoni said. “I don't know if it's important or not, I don't think we'll know until we look back on it, and you might not even know then. So it's just that tonight, they're playing well, (Philadelphia is a) hard team on the road, let's learn to try to win on the road, let's keep building on what we got.”
New York Knicks' 131-118 win over Raptors, Sixers loss to Celtics set up Wednesday showdown
Toney Douglas scored 28 points, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire each added 23, and the New York Knicks closed within a half-game of sixth place in the Eastern Conference by routing the Toronto Raptors 131-118 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
Chauncey Billups had 13 points and nine assists for the Knicks, who can move ahead of the 76ers for the No. 6 seed when they travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday. It’s a rare big game in the springtime for the Knicks, usually long out of contention by now but headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2004.
The Knicks rang up 78 points in their highest-scoring first half of the season, shot 58 percent overall and coasted to their fourth victory over Toronto this season, sweeping the season series for the first time since 2001-02.
New York improved to 39-38 and moved back above .500, where it spent most of the season before nine losses in 10 games last month dropped the Knicks three games under.
The Knicks were in sixth place for months before that slump dropped them to the No. 7 spot. With Boston and Miami tied for second, New York may not know until next week which team it would play in its return to the playoffs.
Toronto vs. Cleveland
The Knicks aren't accustomed to meaningful games this late in the season. Usually, they are playing out the string and padding their stats once the calendar turns to April.
But in less than two weeks they'll get their first playoff game in seven years, and Wednesday night in Philadelphia they'll play a game that likely will determine if they finish sixth or seventh in the Eastern Conference.
"We're playing for playoff seeding," Amar'e Stoudemire said following the Knicks' 131-118, wire-to-wire victory over Toronto at the Garden. "We're going for the sixth spot."
Ramon Sessions, who had 18 points Tuesday, has put together an impressive stretch, averaging 19.5 points on 54.3 percent shooting over the last four games. The swingman is making 45.9 percent of his shots with a career-high average of 12.9 points per game on the season.
Sessions made just 1 of 10 field goals to finish with four points as the Cavaliers shot 38.1 percent in a 101-81 loss at Toronto (21-56) on Oct. 29.
Cleveland fell 120-105 to the Raptors at home in the most recent meeting Jan. 5, and is 5-33 on the road.
Toronto has dropped seven of eight after losing 131-118 at New York on Tuesday, and could be without center Andrea Bargnani - the team leader at 21.4 points per game - after he was limited to just under nine minutes of playing time while not scoring against the Knicks.
It's also unclear if Toronto will continue to be without Leandro Barbosa (sore right pinky finger) and Jose Calderon (strained left hamstring), who sat out Tuesday.
Those absences could mean another strong effort from Ed Davis. The rookie forward-center had a season-high 22 points with 13 rebounds versus New York.
DeMar DeRozan came a point shy of his personal best Tuesday, scoring 36 while grabbing 10 rebounds. The swingman is averaging 26.5 points and 5.5 boards over the last four games, while compiling career highs of 17.0 and 3.8, respectively, this season.