Va-Lin-tine's Day is here! Can the Knicks, with Jeremy Lin at the helm and Amare Stoudemire returning to the lineup, win their sixth straight?
Here are three things to watch for Tuesday night in Toronto:
1.) How will Lin handle the additional minutes and physical play?
Lin was able to rest Sunday, a day after the Timberwolves game, which was needed. After playing a total of 22 minutes in his first month with the Knicks, Lin was on the court for 195 minutes in his past five games (four of them starts), and he looked fatigued in the second half against Minnesota. He went 1-for-12 from the field with four turnovers.
Looking ahead, Lin knows he'll have to get used to the additional playing time.
"I think my body has to adjust for sure just playing heavier minutes," he said. "But we just really want to win games and I think even if I have to play less or have the ball less, I’m fine with that as long as we win."
Lin will also have to prepare for more aggressive defenders coming at him from every angle. That's what he saw from Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio on Saturday night, and that will continue as opposing teams now have him highlighted front and center on their scouting reports. Just a week ago, he wasn't even mentioned on them.
However, Lin doesn't see the physical play as a problem.
"I think the beauty of basketball is that when they're more physical, you can draw more fouls and get people in foul trouble," he said. "So I don't mind people being physical with me."
2.) Amare's return
Lin has been running the pick-and-roll effectively with Tyson Chandler, and now he has the opportunity to do it with Stoudemire, who has previously made the play a daily highlight on SportsCenter.
"I think he’s the best, if not one of the best, pick-and-roll players, so that can only help us," Lin said.
The issue before is that Stoudemire struggled to run the P&R effectively with Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert. Now, with Baron Davis still sidelined, many are counting on Lin to be Stoudemire's best sidekick option this season. There will obviously be an adjustment period, but tonight should showcase what the future holds.
3.) Knicks shouldn't take the Raptors lightly
Even though Toronto is without its leading scorer, power forward Andrea Bargnani (23.5 points per game), the Raptors have been showing a lot of fight in their past two games. They upset the Celtics on Friday night and nearly beat the Lakers two days later, except Kobe Bryant -- who else? -- hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds.
The most important thing for the Knicks is to limit point guard Jose Calderon's floor game. When he gets going, which he did in those two games, averaging 23.5 points and 10.0 assists, the Raptors are a tough out. In fact, in the first Knicks-Raptors matchup of the season, on Jan. 2, Calderon dished out 12 assists with only two turnovers, and the rest of the team benefited from his ability to get into the paint.
Now, Lin is doing that for the Knicks, and doing it at a high level. It should be a different story tonight if the Knicks ome out with the same intensity and confidence they showed last week.
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