The New York Knicks face the Toronto Raptors at 7 p.m. ET on Friday with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. One Knicks loss combined with an Atlanta Hawks win would officially rule out the postseason for this New York team. While the Hawks tip off against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center half an hour after the Knicks get going at the Air Canada Centre, head coach Mike Woodson stressed the need for his players to keep their eyes on the prize and take care of what they can.
Knicks rested after break: No team is anywhere close to 100 percent at this stage of the season, but at least New York should feel somewhat fresh. The Knicks’ last game was Sunday’s 102-91 loss in Miami, and they used the time off to rest. The only practice was on Wednesday, and Carmelo Anthony got a chance to rest his injured right shoulder. Anthony will be in the lineup.
“We were together watching film, guys got shots up and we have a few guys that are a little banged up right now,” Woodson said. “Gave Melo a chance to kind of get some rehab on him. That was the main thing. It’s tough for Melo to get out there and bang around, we just can’t have that right now.”
Anthony said at shootaround that his shoulder “tends to start acting up” once it gets physical during games, but that he will definitely not sit out as long as New York is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Woodson said the team had one good practice, and the goal going into the week was to avoid any more injuries.
Woodson talks Bargnani: Knicks forward Andrea Bargnani returned to the place where he was drafted first overall in 2006, but he was not in uniform. Bargnani has been out of the lineup since tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow on Jan. 22 against Philadelphia. New York was 15-27 at the time, and has gone 18-18 since.
“I thought he would get back, but again, I knew the injury was severe,” Woodson said. “And then the fact that he didn’t have to have surgery, they tried to nurse him back, but obviously it takes time. I’ve never had that injury. Only he knows his body, and the medical staff has been working hard to get him back, but he’s just not been able to get back.”
Raptors prepare for hungry Knicks: Toronto head coach Dwane Casey has a chance to clinch the Atlantic Division title against the team that won it last season, and he is aware of the fact that this is a must-win game for New York.
“We gotta play desperate too,” Casey said. “If you’re walking down the street and somebody’s going to come and hit you in the head with a hammer, are you going to let him do it? That’s where we are. Are we going to let ‘em come in and ambush us? So we gotta be ready to protect yourself, our house, our home and play with that type of desperation.”