Starting 2022 Off With a Bang
The two Eastern Conference rivals will face off in the first game of the new year for both teams. Traditionally, the Christmas to New Year’s period has officially kicked off the push for the playoffs. Both the Raptors and the Knicks have playoff aspirations in mind, although both are on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Knicks were touted as pre-season sleepers to finish in the top four of the East, while the Raptors are looking to accelerate their rebuild in the first season without long-time leader Kyle Lowry who left in the offseason to the Miami Heat.
NBA Games Being Hit by COVID-19
The re-emergence and sudden spread of the Omicron variant has hit all professional sports leagues hard. From day to day, any number of players have been placed in health and safety protocols, making for thin lineups and the addition of depth players to the starting rotations. The surge has even caused the NBA to change its roster rules, allowing teams to add additional players on 10-day contracts. It is a nearly unprecedented move by the league, as Commissioner Adam Silver is adamant about not shutting the league down despite some games already having to be postponed.
NBA Betting Implications
This season has hit sports bettors in the wallet as the game by game variance has made it difficult to predict how a team will perform, and who will even suit up for the game. With sports betting being legalized in many states, including New York, fans of the NBA have had more interest in placing wagers this season. Hometown fans of the Knicks and Raptors will likely be waiting until game day to see what the starting lineups will be for this marquee game.
To say the Knicks have been a disappointment so far this season might be an understatement. Statistically, the Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league against the spread, as well as straight up. New York fans can review Knicks predictions at Caesars online sportsbook NY to see the latest odds and lines of their favorite team.
With online sports betting approaching full legalization in the new year, plenty of New Yorkers will have their eyes on this matchup against the Raptors. Caesars online Sportsbook provides some incredible rewards and bonuses for new users from New York. The Caesars brand is one of the most respected and recognized names in the sports betting industry!
Raptors Outlook for 2022
We the North have been far from spectacular this season, even after a hot start to the year. The Raptors have struggled at home in particular with a below .500 record. This has been a strength for this squad in the past, particularly in 2019 when the team captured the NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors. It has been trying so far this year at times, with obvious depth pieces playing heavy minutes in the rotation.
Injuries have also hit the Raptors as Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakim already missed the start of the season, while OG Anunoby has missed the past few weeks with a hip pointer injury. Backup center Khem Birch has also been out with injuries, leaving an already undersized Raptors team even smaller in the frontcourt.
But there have also been bright spots including the early emergence of rookies Scottie Barnes and Dalano Banton. Barnes has certainly been more impactful by earning a spot in the starting lineup and averaging 15.6 points per game with 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He has been developing a three-point shot as well while averaging more than a steal and a block per game. Toronto native Banton has been a depth piece for the Raptors but has provided a nice spark off the bench at times.
If the Raptors are going to make a push to the postseason in 2022, then much of it will land on the shoulders of point guard Fred Van Vleet. Fred is the offensive leader for the Raptors and has big shoes to fill after the departure of Kyle Lowry. He’s also been to the playoffs before and knows what it takes as the veteran presence on a team full of youth.
Knicks Outlook for 2022
The Knicks came into the season with playoff expectations after a surprise season last year that saw them fall out of the playoff race towards the end of the season. It was a motley crew of veterans led by power forward Julius Randle, but the youth movement is coming on in New York with RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin leading the way.
But there has also been a dark cloud hanging over the Knicks as star point guard Kemba Walker has found himself in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s doghouse. Walker has been removed from the starting lineup and replaced with Alec Burks due to defensive inefficiency, which has caused a rift between the dressing room and Thibodeau. This type of turmoil usually either rallies a team or sends them off the rails, making for a very volatile situation.
The Knicks will be without point guard Derrick Rose for the next eight weeks following ankle surgery, so it does seem likely that Kemba will see more action. But Thibodeau has also been giving more playing time to youngsters like Immanuel Quickley, the 2020 first round draft pick out of Kentucky. To add to the carousel of guards, prospects Miles McBride of West Virginia and Quentin Grimes from Houston have also seen an uptick in playing time without Rose and Barrett in the lineup.
The Eastern Conference is wide open, with the current thirteenth place team only three games out of the final playoff spot and only three and a half games back of sixth. The Knicks have the talent to make the playoffs, especially over teams like Washington and Charlotte who are both ahead of them in the standings as of now. Can the Knicks do it? It might take either moving Kemba over Thibodeau to get this team on the same page.