Raps should start praying

The Toronto Raptors need a win against the New York Knicks to keep their playoff hopes alive. (Stan...

The Toronto Raptors need a win against the New York Knicks to keep their playoff hopes alive. (Stan Behal/QMI AGENCY)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:28 PM ET

TORONTO - Even if they take care of business and hold serve on their home court, the Raptors will need help along Tobacco Road.

About the same time the Raptors will play host to the New York Knicks, the Charlotte Bobcats will be at home against the visiting Chicago Bulls.

The Raptors hold the tiebreaker over the Bulls, but need to beat the Knicks and hope the Bobcats summon enough resistance to subdue the Bulls.

A Toronto win coupled with a Chicago loss will send the Raptors to the playoffs where a first-round meeting with LeBron and the Cavs await.

Unlike the Bulls, there is no Derrick Rose to contain, no dominant penetrator capable of carving defences, scoring on his own and creating for others.

There is no Joakim Noah, who will crash the boards and retrieve loose balls through his hustle and sheer will.

There is danger, nonetheless, in the shape of David Lee and Danilo Gallinari, who scored 24 points, all in the second half, in New York’s win over Washington on Monday.

While Wednesday’s tip carries so much meaning for the Raptors, there is next to none for the Knicks, except for professional pride, which hardly describes the mind-set of most NBA players when the end has arrived.

Mike D’Antoni dismissed any notion of some season-ending speech to his beleaguered Knicks.

“Not really. See ya.”

Which pretty much sums up the Knicks and how they play defence.

In their last 12 outings, each opponent has scored at least 100 points.

In Charlotte, the Bobcats do play defence, because Larry Brown demands it.

The Bobcats are expected to rest their best player, Gerald Wallace (shoulder), because the team is already assured of an opening-round matchup against Orlando, which will play host to Game 1 this weekend.

Chicago is 2-1 against the Bobcats this season, but its two wins were produced at home.

The Bobcats have won 11 of their past 12 home games, their only defeat suffered at the hands of the Raptors on March 29 in a 102-101 loss.

Chicago, which played against the visiting Celtics on Tuesday, will be playing the back-end of a back-to-back.

Brown told reporters before Charlotte’s game against New Jersey that he’ll approach Wednesday’s season finale as though it had meaning for the Bobcats because he understands what’s at stake for the Bulls and Raptors.

The Bobcats, in essence, are gearing up for Dwight Howard, which may help the Raptors.

To stop Howard, teams must be physical. To stop Orlando, teams must deny penetration.

The Bulls don’t have Orlando’s three-point presence, but they look inside and rely on Rose’s ability to attack the rim.

A look at the season series between Raptors and Knicks:

Jan. 15 at New York

Raptors 112, Knicks 104

Andrea Bargnani lights it up from beyond the three-point arc, going 5-for-6 to score 24 points; Jose Calderon comes off the bench and scores 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field.

Jan. 28 at New York

Raptors 106, Knicks 104

Hedo Turkoglu’s finest moment in a season of unfulfilled promise as he scored 26 points, had 11 boards and attempted nine free throws; Lee had a monster game, scoring 29 points and recording 18 rebounds.

March 5 at Toronto

Raptors 102, Knicks 96

T-Mac’s return as a Knick ends in a dud — 13 points in 33 minutes; Amir Johnson starts for Chris Bosh (stomach virus) and nets 14; Sonny Weems explodes for 20 points.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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