The Toronto Raptors don’t have long to enjoy their last-minute win over the Denver Nuggets as they will be in New York to face the Knicks Wednesday.
While the Knicks currently lead the Atlantic Division, they have cooled off considerably after a hot start to the season.
So far in 2013, they are only 11-8, which is surely an enviable record for the Raptors who are just 9-14 over the same span.
Here are a few more thoughts to consider ahead of tonight’s game:
Need to get defensive
Raptors coach Dwane Casey continues to preach defence but in the win over Denver, his team was torched down the lane.
The Nuggets shot 52 per cent from the field while an incredible 70 of their 108 points came from inside the paint.
“We’ve got to shore up our defence,” Casey told Eric Koreen of the National Post after the game. “Our pick-and-roll defence, our transition defence. That’s the most I think we’ve given up, 70 points in the paint.”
But the team’s interior defence should not share the blame alone as the Raptors had trouble slowing down point guard Ty Lawson, who dropped 30 in the contest.
“Ty Lawson? He’s a jet, but it’s not on the guy guarding him, it’s on the whole team,” said Casey. “We talked all day about getting back, building a wall. We were trying to blitz him a few times and he split the blitz. We’ve got to contain the ball.”
The Lucas effect
It took a couple of games but John Lucas appears to be settling into the role of back-up point guard nicely.
While no one will ever accuse him of being a pass-first point guard, he is providing instant offence off the bench for the Raptors as he has been on a point-a-minute pace over the past two games.
Against the Nuggets, he dropped 19 points in just over 19 minutes while shooting 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“I thought his spark was huge off the bench,” Casey told sportsnet.ca. “He got us some cracks and some open spaces. That got us some three-pointers.”
No one seemed overly surprised that Rudy Gay took the final shot for the Raptors, even Nuggets coach George Karl.
“I think everybody in the building knew who was going to take that final shot,” Karl said.
But the challenge for the Nuggets was trying to stop him and that is part of the reason why he has proven so valuable for the Raptors.
“He’s a big time player, he’s a closer,” Casey told the Globe and Mail’s Robert MacLeod. “His role card, it will be all across the front of it – closer.
“He’s done it his whole career.”