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Crispy’s Pre-Game Notebook: Knicks-Raptors

NEW YORK KNICKS (3-5)

  • The Knicks leave a trail of technical fouls behind them in Boston, as they face one of the powers of the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors, at the Air Canada Centre tonight.
  • The two ejections and six technical fouls against the Knicks Friday was an example of officials backing each other up. When one issues an ejection, the others are on high alert for further transgressions. While the Knicks seemed to be losing their cool (Carmelo Anthony ejection) in the first half, officials were not going to take anything for granted, which resulted in Brandon Jennings also being ejected in the second half.
  • At halftime in Boston, I talked with Bennett Salvatore, a longtime NBA official who is now a referee supervisor, and he told me, “It’s been a point of education that referees are trying to be less confrontational and offer explanations on certain calls.” Referee Tony Brothers was headed toward the Knicks bench to explain to Jeff Hornacek what the call on Anthony was, when Carmelo kept up the dialogue. Hence the second technical.
  • New York gave up 30 or more points in each of the first two quarters Friday. That has now happened in 12 of 32 quarters this year and is something the Knicks are surely working to clean up.
  • The Knicks offense ranks 13th in field goal percentage and 16th in assist to turnover ratio after shooting 35% on Friday.
  • Derrick Rose is not happy with his early season shooting, which is currently 44.3% and 37.5% from the three. Rose told me that he is trying to be more selective with his shots and “concentrate on being a playmaker for the team.”
  • Rose has been forcing the issue at times, averaging five assists and three turnovers per game. He has been working out with a weighted basketball to improve the arc on his shots. He showed it to me in the lockeroom and even invited me to bounce it. The ball weighs about 4.5 lbs and is built to bounce like a regular ball to allow working out in game-like situations.
  • Rookies Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas have produced off the bench the past couple of games. On Friday, “Billy” and “Kooz” combined to contribute 13 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, but did have seven turnovers. That last number is part of the baptism by fire for rookies in the NBA.
  • Kuzminskas told me today, “It’s a learning curve, being on the court with these great athletes is different than studying them on tape.” As far as officials notoriously giving no breaks to rookies, he replied, “Everyone is human, they have to get to know me and my tendencies.”

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TORONTO RAPTORS (6-2)

  • The Raptors return home after winning two straight games on the road against tough opponents (Thunder & Hornets).
  • DeMar DeRozan went off for 34 points in Friday’s 113-111 victory against the Hornets and is currently averaging a league-leading 34.1 points through eight games.
  • His teammate Norman Powell has been duly impressed, “I’ve been watching (DeRozan) for a long time, but it’s honestly crazy what he’s doing. We are witnessing history, it’s great to watch.”
  • The Raptors defense has been stifling, allowing the third least points per game in the NBA (96.4). However, they allowed 111 to Charlotte Friday, 40 of which came from Kemba Walker.
  • Seven-foot center Jonas Valanciunas, who missed missed two games with a left knee contusion, will play tonight after going for 12 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes on Friday.
  • Terrence Ross will also play tonight. Ross missed Wednesday’s game against the Thunder with a sprained finger, but returned last night off the bench and scored eight points in 20 minutes.