NBA fans will be getting afternoon basketball today, with a majority of the nine-game slate being played from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM. One of the 3:30 PM games will feature the Toronto Raptors taking on the New York Knicks, and we’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
Over the past few years, the Raptors have adopted a very specific brand of basketball, and it had worked for them until this season when they now find themselves 19-24 and the 11 seed in the Eastern Conference. The offense has been a big problem for them, as they enter tonight ranked 23rd in points per game and 29th in shooting percentage.
Toronto is ranked at the bottom of the league in most shooting categories, and in their recent ten-game stretch in which they went 4-6, their true effective field goal percentage of 50.3% is the worst in the league. To put in perspective their recent struggles, the Houston Rockets are 0-10 in the same span and have a slightly better percentage.
In that same ten-game stretch, the Raptors' defensive efficiency rating of 114.5 is ranked 16th in the league. They will need improvement on both ends of the floor to compete with a Knicks team that beat them just ten days ago. New York enters tonight on a three-game win streak and has gone 7-3 in their previous ten games, which has warranted a NET rating of 5 in that span.
The Knicks have the tenth-best offensive efficiency rating in the past ten games and the seventh-best defensive efficiency rating in that span as well. A lot of their success can be attributed to Jalen Brunson, averaging 29.1 points per game in the previous ten games. Brunson has recently been a profitable player to bet on, going over his point total in eight of his last nine games.
Brunson and Julius Randle have been a difficult duo to stop recently, and the last time they played Toronto, they combined for 58 points, so we’ll see how the Raptors adjust on the defensive end.
The Knicks are currently listed as -2.5 point favorites, and I’ll be taking them as my best bet for the game. New York has covered as favorites in three straight games, and despite them playing just last night, the Knicks are 19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 games playing on no day's rest.
Toronto has found the most success on the offensive end when they run in transition this season, as they rank third in the NBA in fast break points per game with an average of 17.9 per game. However, the Knicks are a tough match-up for them in this area as in the last ten games, New York is holding opponents to an average of nine fast break points per game, the second-lowest average in the league.
It’s an obvious statement, but the Raptors' large amount of transition opportunities stems from their high-level ability to force turnovers. Toronto is first in the league in steals per game, but Jalen Brunson and the Knicks have done an excellent job this season limiting their turnovers with an average of 13.2 a game, the fourth-lowest total in the league.
I think New York continues their winning ways today at home and does enough offensively to put the game out of reach for Toronto.
New York Knicks (-2.5)