The Knicks extended their longest winning streak in eight years to nine consecutive victories, taking down the Raptors at home on Saturday afternoon.

The New York Knicks (34-27) fended off a late rally from the Toronto Raptors (25-35) to win 120-103 at home in a Saturday matinee. New York’s win streak now stands at nine games, the most of any team in the NBA. The usual suspects guided the Knicks to victory—Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett combined for 56 points and eight threes. Meanwhile, Toronto’s star, Kyle Lowry, was held to a mere four points on 1-for-10 shooting. 

The entire New York team was on fire from the get-go. In total, the Knicks buried 16 of their 31 triples, which equates to a torrid 51.6% clip. Additionally, they boasted an overall field-goal percentage of 56.0%. Ball movement and player movement resulted in numerous high percentage looks, as the Knicks collectively accumulated 20 assists. All in all, 120 points in total is a positive development for a New York club not known for its offensive prowess. 

Derrick Rose playing his best b-ball of the season

The former MVP’s numbers over the last 10 games have been outstanding—15.7 points and 3.5 assists on 50/36/87 shooting splits in 26.5 minutes off the bench entering today. Rose has served as the linchpin of New York’s bench offense during their winning streak with his three-level scoring and opportunistic playmaking chops. The dribble-drive is a staple of NBA offenses as it creates open three-pointers once the defense collapses. Rose ranks among the Knicks’ best drive-and-kick initiators thanks to his speed and tight handle. This attribute of his came in handy during Saturday afternoon’s matchup. 

Rose tallied 10 points and four dimes in the first half and tore up the Raptors in the paint. Whether it was methodical floater shots or swift drives to the front of the rim, Rose nailed practically everything he looked at on the interior. These point-blank buckets opened up his outside game, where he knocked down a pair of mid-range jumpers. Once Rose had begun to pile on the points, the Raptors showed him extra bodies in the paint to shut driving lanes. The heady veteran that Rose is, he exploited this gameplan by finding Reggie Bullock outside for wide-open three-pointers. 

Rose could not have picked a more opportune time to begin playing his best basketball as a Knick. There are only 11 games until the postseason, and the Knicks will need consistent offensive creation from Rose come playoff time once opponents ramp up their defensive intensity. If Rose can replicate his play over the last 10 in the postseason, the Knicks are that much more likely to pull off a Cinderella run. A playoff series win is certainly in the cards for this bunch, which is a testament to New York’s culture shift spearheaded by head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Julius Randle is an All-NBA talent

At this juncture, Randle has proven that, more often than not, he’s the best player on the court—he was Saturday. The Kentucky product scored 28 points by the end of three quarters and did so without breaking a sweat. Ten of his first 15 shots found nylon, including five of his seven three-balls. The Raptors inevitably attempted to trap Randle upon every touch, but to no avail—he either spun his way around the trap or patiently fired a pass to the open man. It’s apparent that the game has slowed down for Randle, and he is exuding supreme confidence. 

After nailing a patented fallaway jumper in the second quarter and a pull-up three over a double-team in the third, Randle responded to these scores by repeatedly shaking his head. In lamen’s terms, Randle is aware that he can get whatever kind of shot he wants whenever he wants. It’s not as if Toronto’s defense on Randle was poor by any means—they forced him into a lot of high-degree-of-difficulty shots. However, as people say, good offense beats good defense every day of the week. 

Randle followed up a 41-point torching of the Hawks on Wednesday with another superb showing that will boost his case as a worthy addition to an All-NBA team. Not only that, he should and likely will be considered for the Most Improved Player award as well. It’s not too long ago when Randle garnered universal flak for his inefficiency in his maiden season as a Knick. In just one year, he’s flipped the script from underachiever to multifaceted star with the potential to reach superstar status in New York. Randle’s dedication off the court will pay off in the form of both personal and team awards—a playoff berth for the Knicks and an All-NBA selection for Randle. 

New York will try to extend their win streak to 10 on Monday against the Phoenix Suns. Five of the Knicks’ last 11 games are at Madison Square Garden.


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