On Wednesday, New York (21-18) held off the San Antonio Spurs while the Raptors suffered a tough loss against Milwaukee, despite coming back from 16 down with 90 seconds left to force overtime.
Toronto (16-22) has shown that they are hard to put away this season despite their record and position in the eastern conference standings. Toronto beat the Knicks 113-106 in the first meeting this season at MSG when Pascal Siakam scored 52 points.
Recently, Toronto has struggled to win games despite their fight on the court. The Raptors have lost four of their last five and seven of their last ten games. New York will face off with the Raptors three times this month and each game will mean a lot for both teams in the race for the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have been on a rollercoaster over the last month. New York lost six of eight contests from November to early December. Then, they won eight in a row before losing five straight before 2022 turned into 2023, and now they have won three in a row.
New York has struggled in the division so far this season, too, with a 1-4 record against Atlantic opponents. These January games against the Raptors are very important for the head-to-head tiebreaker and much more, depending on how the season plays out.
On the injury front, Otto Porter Jr. will miss the game for the Raptors, as will R.J. Barrett for the Knicks. Missing R.J. will certainly have an impact, and the Knicks will need to rely on the recently returned Jalen Brunson along with Julius Randle if they are going to get the victory.
This will also be another test for the Knicks when it comes to finishing games strong, which is something they have struggled with all campaign long. The Raptors showed on Wednesday that they will fight until the very end no matter what the score is, and that should be a big part of the Knicks’ preparation for the game.
The Atlantic division has worn the Knicks out in recent seasons, and it’s as deep as any in the NBA. Others will need to step up in this game, especially with Barrett out, and because of that I will pick the Raptors to win a close game. The Knicks have had some great road moments this season, but have also had some well-documented bad ones. It is hard to know what to expect anymore from New York, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the big games this month.
We will have coverage during and after the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night in Toronto.