Knicks thump 'healthy' Raptors

Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors goes to the basket against Tyson Chandler of the New York...

Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors goes to the basket against Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks during Tuesday night's game at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won by a landslide. (GETTY IMAGES)

Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:21 AM ET

NEW YORK - Take away the 20 minutes or so the Raptors played in Detroit before Jose Calderon went down and it had been 55 days since Dwane Casey last had his starting five intact.

It was back together again Tuesday night but clearly not yet functioning at its peak as the Raptors dropped an ugly one, 106-87 to the New York Knicks.

Andrea Bargnani, who seemed to have found his shooting rhythm of late, lost it again going just 5-for-13 from the field. A perfect 5-for-5 night from the line salvaged a 15-point night for the not-quite-back-to-form Bargnani.

Calderon, who missed five games after rolling his ankle in that Detroit game, admitted to being a little rusty.

“It was OK,” Calderon said of his return. “I’m a little sore right now, a little rusty at times trying to get my rhythm but it wasn’t bad.”

The Knicks, meanwhile, look like a completely different team than the one that struggled when Carmelo Anthony returned and brought Linsanity to a screeching halt, not to mention the Knicks coaching career of Mike D’Antoni.

“They’re much more aggressive on defence,” Calderon said. “They are playing with more confidence and they’re even different on offence. They’re not going as fast. They’re not one pass and shoot. They really try to get the ball where they want to and get everyone involved. Now it seems they are running plays where before it was transition all the time.”

When Calderon makes the switch and goes into scorer mode, as he did in the third quarter, you know the opposing defence is making it very hard on the Raptors.

On the flipside, when you see Anthony with as many assists (five) as successful field goals, you know the Knicks have turned over a new leaf.

Toronto was still hanging around this one midway through the fourth before the Knicks put it in high gear and opened up a 20-point lead.

The two teams shot the ball with about the same proficiency but the Knicks owned the boards, out-rebounding the Raps 46-27 including a ridiculous 15-3 advantage in offensive rebounds.

“They turned the juice up and we didn’t meet the challenge,” head coach Casey said. “Anytime you give up 16 offensive boards, our (17) turnovers ... Those were the two keys we said going into the game and those are the two things that hurt us.”

Bargnani update

Coming into Tuesday’s game Bargnani appeared to be slowly rounding into the scoring form he had before a 20-game layoff with a left calf strain.

Casey sees the progress and he’s fine with that. What he’s not fine with, however, is the slippage in Bargnani’s defence.

As apparent and understandable his offensive struggles have been since returning from the long layoff, Casey seemed more concerned about his game at the other end of the floor.

“Defensively he’s kind of been a step off too,” Casey said. “I told him I understand the offence being (slow to come) but there’s no reason defensively that you can’t be where you are supposed to be. It’s not effort. It’s more focus and recognizing the situation.

“He’s focused but there’s a timing element that goes into rotations and when you’re out that long and you haven’t practised or had a lot of time to get a lot of practice, that timing of when to rotate and who do I rotate to, that split second is huge and that recognition is a part of the rust that he has been dealing with.”

In the six games since his return, Bargnani has averaged 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. As a team the Raps have given up an average of 102.2 points since his return. For the year opponents are averaging 94.8 points against Toronto.

One change for Bargnani Tuesday night was the lifting of his minutes restriction.

It was a preventative measure put in by Casey to ensure he didn’t overwork Bargnani too early in his comeback.

“The minute restrictions kind of took him out of his rhythm,” Casey said.

“Jerking him in and out to make sure I kept his minutes down. That has been an issue to kind of keep him from getting an offensive rhythm down.”

Gray erupts

Aaron Gray’s night ended prematurely with his third foul just over four minutes into the third quarter. The foul, away from the play, followed a Landry Fields running layup. Gray then said something and was assessed his first technical and then something else to get his second. He then walked over towards Leon Wood before teammates pulled him away.

Quick Hits

Morning shootarounds, by their nature, are apt to provide some rather unique sightings and Tuesday’s was no exception. Long-time hockey writer Stan Fischler was all dressed up in Knicks sweats for what we assume was some Knicks-Rangers cross promotion. Fishler shoots a basketball like Gretzky used to fight ... Jerryd Bayless left the game early in the fourth quarter favouring his left hip area. Right before the end of the third he took a hard foul from Amare Stoudemire that knocked him on his back. He believes he took a Stoudemire knee to the hip on the play but said he fully expects to be back in the lineup on Wednesday against the Bulls.


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