The Toronto Raptors expect to return to the postseason after a one-year absence. They might want to keep a close eye on teams such as the New York Knicks.
Trying to keep pace in a crowded pack of playoff contenders, the Raptors face the Knicks for the first time this season Friday night.
Toronto went 33-49 last season, one game better than New York as it missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Raptors (19-20) are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but they're among a group of six teams within 3 1/2 games of each other for the final four playoff spots.
The Knicks (16-22) have gone 13-8 since the start of December to move into ninth place, 2 1/2 games behind the Raptors as they try to make the postseason for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
These Atlantic Division rivals tied last season's series 2-2.
Toronto is coming off a much-needed three-day break. The Raptors seemed to tire Monday night in their third game in four days, blowing a 23-point second-quarter lead in a 105-101 loss to Indiana.
It was Toronto's second straight loss after it won eight of nine.
"We need to settle down ... watch a lot of film, see what we did wrong and what we can do better," forward Chris Bosh said.
Bosh had 27 points and 10 rebounds versus the Pacers. He's averaging 29.0 points in his last three games.
Bosh, though, is averaging 14.5 points -- 9.5 below his season average -- and shooting 32.3 percent (10 for 31) in his last two games at Madison Square Garden.
The four-time All-Star generally carries much of the rebounding burden for the Raptors, averaging 11.3 boards a contest, but he got some help from 7-footer Andrea Bargnani against Indiana.
Bargnani had 12 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, five more than his previous best. He's averaging a career-high 6.4 boards this season but has only two double-digit rebounding efforts since Dec. 1.
"I definitely have to improve," Bargnani said. "It's the aspect of my game that is more, I would say, bad. Ten a game would be nice, but I have a long way to go."
Bargnani is averaging 21.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in his last four games against the Knicks.
Danilo Gallinari, Bargnani's former teammate on the Italian national team, has made strides in his second season with the Knicks but has struggled over his last three games, averaging 7.7 points and shooting 28.6 percent.
David Lee more than made up for another poor shooting game from Gallinari on Wednesday night, scoring 24 points and making the winning layup with 13.3 seconds remaining as New York beat Philadelphia 93-92 to salvage the finale of a three-game trip.
Lee, averaging 21.2 points and 12.6 rebounds in the last 13 games, played Wednesday despite the death of his grandfather the previous day.
"There are just so many things that he does to make himself a good player and you have to appreciate a player like that," coach Mike D'Antoni said.