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|SI's Marty Burns' Breakdown|
|Toronto || ||New York |
| Despite being undersized at 6-foot-9, Antonio Davis (13.7 points, 10.1 rebounds) played well enough in the pivot to make the All-Star team. He and Charles Oakley form a tough defensive interior that can defend the post and dominate the glass. He'll need to keep a body on Marcus Camby at all times.
|| CENTER |
| Marcus Camby has been the Knicks' best player this season. He's their only big-time rebounder and shot-blocker, and his ability to slash to the rim provides a much-needed dimension. It's no coincidence he sat out two of New York's losses to Toronto this season. He's been bothered of late by a bruised hip, but he'll play.
| Oakley is 37, but he still knows all the tricks of the trade at power forward. He'll make big shots, commit hard fouls, dive into the crowd, and he always seems to play well against his former Knicks team. Rookie Morris Peterson has enjoyed a solid freshman campaign at small forward, but he appeared to tire down the stretch. His inexperience could be a factor, especially against Sprewell and Houston.
|| FORWARDS |
| Latrell Sprewell didn't enjoy a great season by his standards (17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists), but he's still a two-way force. He's also a money player who will raise his game when it counts. His defense on Vince Carter in last year's playoffs was outstanding. Larry Johnson has been injured much of the season, but he's a glue guy who makes others better. Still, look for him to split time with Kurt Thomas.
| Carter (27.6 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 3.9 apg.) is one of the game's true superstars, capable of carrying his team to victory. However, he struggled in last year's playoffs against Sprewell and the Knicks' constant double teams. He's a more seasoned player now, but he's going to need some help. Alvin Williams is a solid set-up man and the team's best perimeter defender. His emergence allowed the Raptors to deal Mark Jackson at midseason. However, he'll need to hit the outside shot consistently to take pressure off Carter.
|| GUARDS |
| Allan Houston is the Knicks' leading scorer at 18.7 ppg., but the All-Star guard's play dipped over the second half of the season and he managed to shoot just 32.1 percent from downtown. He'll need to resurrect his shooting eye in this series, especially with Sprewell focused on stopping Carter. Mark Jackson has been a disappointment since joining the Knicks, but he's a playoff-tested veteran who knows how to win big games. His grind-it-out style is well-suited to the postseason, though he'll split time with Charlie Ward. |
| Jerome Williams, Keon Clark and Chris Childs have given the Raptors a new more athletic dimension off the bench. Williams, the former Piston, is a rebounding demon who raises the energy level of his teammates. Clark, the former Nuggets stringbean, is a shot-blocking force who could prove invaluable against Camby. Childs, the former Knicks go-go guard, will be extra motivated to play well against his former team. Meanwhile, Dell Curry provides a long-distance threat to keep the floor spaced.
|| BENCH |
| In Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas, Glen Rice and Othella Harrington, the Knicks have plenty of experience in reserve. Thomas, a 6-foot-9 banger, is a legit Sixth Man Award candidate who defends and rebounds, though he has a tendency to get in foul trouble. Ward has stepped up his game considerably the past few months, displacing Jackson as the team's floor leader in crunch time. Rice is still one of the game's great pure shooters, though he has struggled to find his niche. |
| Lenny Wilkens is the NBA's all-time winningest coach. In his first season in Toronto, he led the Raptors to a franchise-best 47-35 mark. However, Toronto has been wildly inconsistent and Wilkens' laid-back approach might be part of the reason.
|| COACH |
| Few coaches prepare their teams more thoroughly than Jeff Van Gundy. In his six years, he has never failed to lead the Knicks past the first round. His team might tune him out at times, but it'll play for him when it counts. |
| The Raptors appear to be hitting their stride, and they should be focused, having been swept by the Knicks a year ago. Ex-Knicks Oakley and Childs also figure to have extra motivation to perform well against their former club.
|| INTANGIBLES |
| The Knicks haven't been knocked out in the first round since '91. They are a tough, hard-nosed, defensive-minded team built for the playoff grind. They're also tough to beat at Madison Square Garden, where they were 30-11 this season.
| Childs. The former Knicks point guard badly wants to shut up the New York critics who buried him so often in Gotham. He's capable of knocking down big shots if given the chance. More important, his chippy play could provide a needed spark. || 'X' FACTOR |
| With Camby (hip), Johnson (back) and Rice (foot) all nursing injuries, the Knicks are somewhat gimpy. Camby, in particular, must stay healthy or the Raptors will clean up on the backboards. |
|Burns' Prediction: Knicks in 5|