Photo Credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

Knicks start strong against the Raptors

Currently, the Toronto Raptors are the best team in the East. Coming into the game against the New York Knicks, Toronto boasts the best record in the league, 11-1, and are undefeated at home. New York traveled across the border with the hope of handing Toronto their first home loss. In the beginning, New York came out with the right energy to make that happen.

In the first half, the Knicks played exceptional defense on Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Overall, the Knicks held both players to a total of 13 points. Frank Ntilikina‘s length bothered Lowry while Damyean Dotson‘s activity on defense slowed down Leonard. Unfortunately, Toronto’s second unit ran the Knicks out of Scotiabank Arena towards the end of the half.

Raptors second unit dismantles the Knicks

The complete dismantling of the Knicks began almost four minutes into the second quarter when Jonas Valanciunas received the pass from Fred VanVleet for the emphatic slam. Both VanVleet and Valanciunas took advantage of Enes Kanter on the pick-and-roll to create the wide-open lane for Valanciunas to exploit. That basket ignited an 8-0 run which gave Toronto a 43-36 lead.

Gradually, Toronto’s second unit kept applying the pressure on the Knicks, and at halftime, the Knicks were trailing 64-53. At this moment, it seemed like Toronto would run away with the game, but the Knicks weren’t going to lay down without a fight.

Raptors stave off Knicks comeback

New York came out the gates with the heart of a lion and cut into Toronto’s lead with a 16-6 run. Dotson breathed life into the Knicks by scoring the first five points in the third quarter, and he made a layup on the fastbreak off Ntilikina’s steal to cut the Knicks deficit to one. Afterward, what transpired after Dotson’s layup was a beatdown of the highest order.

It’s unknown if Raptors can transform according to science, but in this game, there was compelling evidence. Late in the third, the Raptors transformed into a group of Tyrannosaurus Rex and stomped the Knicks. In other words, Toronto crushed the Knicks with a 30-8 run to end the quarter.

Raptors and Knicks team stats

Surprisingly, Pascal Siakim’s 23-point performance led Toronto to a 128-112 destruction of New York. Leonard and Lowry combined to score 22 of Toronto’s 128 points. The starters performed well as a group, but the second unit devastated the Knicks.

Valanciunas was Toronto’s main weapon off the bench. He finished with a double-double, scoring nineteen points and grabbing ten rebounds. OG Anunoby contributed with 16 points. Delon Wright and Serge Ibaka both ended the game with 12 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to carry the scoring load for New York. He scored 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Kanter continues to be a monster on the boards and provide good minutes off the bench. He snatched fifteen boards to go with his fifteen points. Mario Hezonja, Kevin Knox, and Emmanuel Mudiay finished with thirteen points, twelve points, and twelve points respectively.

Burke has completely fallen out of the Knicks rotation

Trey Burke seems to be in the doghouse at the moment. David Fizdale began to pull his starters with about four minutes left to play, and Burke’s name wasn’t called to play garbage time minutes.

For whatever reason, Burke hasn’t been able to find the form which led to him being called up from the Westchester Knicks last season. As a result, an opportunity was there for Mudiay to take advantage of, and so far, Mudiay has been a solid backup guard. It’ll be interesting to see if Burke can regain his spot in the rotation, but if Mudiay continues to perform, Burke may find it difficult to do so.

Key Notes

New York allowed Toronto to shoot 53.2% on the court, 40% from three, and Toronto made more free throws (30) than New York attempted (22). All of these stats together created the recipe which led to New York’s disaster.

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