Knicks target Toronto's Bargnani

The New York Knicks get their second chance in almost two weeks to gain ground on the Toronto Raptors.

The New York Knicks get their second chance in almost two weeks to gain ground on the Toronto Raptors.

The last time they met, a certain forward and former first-round pick of Toronto befuddled the Knicks in the 112-104 defeat at Madison Square Garden. But unlike most other losses to Toronto, it wasn’t all-star Chris Bosh doing damage. Rather, it was Andrea Bargnani, who tormented New York with team highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Toronto jumped on New York quickly and was up by as many as 28 points. The Knicks know they can’t let that happen again.

“We just have to start off the game better,” said Chris Duhon. “We got them off to a good start and they felt confident about themselves and we had to fight from behind...and [when that happens] it’s tough to come back in this league.”

The Knicks [18-26] enter tonight’s game easily within range of the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls [21-22], so this tilt with the Raptors [23-22] is very important. Not just in the tight standings but from a mental standpoint because in the Raptors, the Knicks see a carbon copy.

“They’re kind of like us in that they can really shoot the ball,” said Duhon. “They have bigs who can shoot like us. And they’re a perimeter-oriented team.”

One of the Raptors’ main shooters from the outside is the 7-foot Bargnani, whose long-range shooting opens things up for Bosh.

“Bargnani is a huge part of what they can do,” said Lee. “And obviously Bosh will always be a constant. But when Bargnani and [point guard Jose] Calderon and [forward Hedo] Turkoglu are hitting their shots it makes them that more difficult to guard because you can’t just focus on Bosh.”

Lee then said he feels confident they can hang with Toronto – only if they play as a cohesive unit.

“We don’t have a 30 point a night scorer like a LeBron on the team – yet,” Lee said, loving the fact he ‘accidentally’ committed a Freudian slip. “We play our best ball when we’re moving, setting multiple pick and rolls, and utilizing one another. When we do that we’re pretty good and tough to stop because Coach has a good system for that.

“When we’re selfish and going one-one one, oftentimes it leads to trouble unless we’re on fire. But to play against a team like Toronto, we’ll have to move the ball.”

The man responsible for getting the ball to the playmakers, Duhon, has admittedly struggled with his shot this season, shooting 34 percent, but feels he can have a positive impact in other areas.

“I’m still out there playing and trying to help this team win,” said Duhon, who has a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. “I can’t let my shot affect the rest of my game. I can still help this team win in other areas and that’s what I’ll do until everything else starts to click.”

Head coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried about Duhon’s funk and thinks he’ll shake it soon. D’Antoni has total faith that Duhon will right himself and said Duhon’s impact tonight isn’t just stat-driven.

“He’s just struggling with his shot,” D’Antoni allowed. “But that’s all most people see, they just see somebody shooting well or not.”

When asked what makes Duhon so important, D’Antoni was rather quick to point out stats.

“They really don’t understand he had 13 assists and no turnovers [Tuesday night],” he said. “[A] three-to-one ratio is one of the top four or five point guards in the league. So, there's a lot of good things he is doing. He's just missing shots. We'll just hang in there until he starts making them.”

 
 
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