Winning in Toronto continues to be a problem. The Knicks dropped their sixth straight game to the Raptors at Air Canada Centre, 128-112.

The rare Saturday matinee started exactly how you might have thought it would. The majority of the opening quarter had an open gym vibe–a lot of bricks, errant passes and wide open shooters. The Raptors returned home from the west coast and the jet lag was obvious. Their rustiness combined with an active Knicks defense, which forced six turnovers and held Raptors to 42.1 percent shooting, led to a stalemate opening quarter.

After feeling each other out, both teams started to find their rhythm in the second quarter. The bench unit of Emmanuel Mudiay, Enes Kanter, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, and Mario Hezonja was fun. Mudiay, in particular, played great. He did a little of everything—six points, two assists, two rebounds, two steals—as he further supplants himself over Trey Burke as the first guard off the bench.

The Raptors went tit for tat with impressive bench performances from OG Anunoby and Delon Wright. The bench was a catalyst for a 39-28 quarter that helped them secure an eleven-point lead despite a mundane half from Kawhi and Kyle Lowry, with 13 points on 3-for-8 shooting.

Tim Hardaway Jr. carried the load throughout the first half (again), but to start the third quarter he was joined by Damyean Dotson. Dot hit his first three shots to pull the Knicks close. Frank stepped in with a three of his own to help keep the Raptors on tilt. That momentum slowly evaporated, thanks to some sloppy turnovers that led to transition threes. The Raptors continued to hit from three as they put up another 30-plus point quarter.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the talent gap started to show. The Raptors recovered from a slow start to shoot 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. The defense for the Knicks was great at times but the Achilles heel remains the wide open three-pointers.

Starter Shuffle

Could another starting lineup tweak be on the horizon? Fizdale did not get to officially reshuffle the lineup after ten games. Hardaway Jr.’s injury ruined that but as the 15 game mark creeps up one last tweak could be made.

The leading candidate to get shoved to the bench is Noah Vonleh. His activity on the boards will keep him in the thick of the rotation, but his offense is what hurts the starting unit. Once again, it was Timmy or bust for the starters. Frank started the game off with a nice move but went cold soon after. Damyean Dotson is a capable option, but he is best served in the off-the-ball complementary role.

Once Kristaps Porzingis returns, this problem will cease to exist. But in the meantime, Kevin Knox should be the answer. Knox got off to a quick start off the bench, hitting a three then a nice floater to get started. His playmaking ability could go a long way to alleviate Hardaway from shouldering the whole scoring which he is currently tasked with.

Trouble on the Horizon?

The Sixth Man of the Year motivation is not doing it for Enes Kanter. Lately, it looks like he is balling to get out of New York or off the bench. You can love Kanter’s hustle while still being frustrated with everything else he does. He managed to pull down eight rebounds, but also got up nine shots in just ten minutes, and hit just two of those attempts. The most annoying habit he has picked up as of late is putting the ball right back up after an offensive board. He did it a handful of times in the first half, forcing a brick over multiple defenders.

This may be a bit of an overreaction, but I do not see a happy ending with Kanter if he remains on the bench. His body language screams he wants more while the Knicks clearly need less. Ideally, Kanter sees what Jonas Valanciunas has done with a bench role, but in a contract year, he cannot afford a perceived step back.

Dotson Stock Boomin’

Dotson continues to impress in his ever-growing role. We did not get to see Frank matched on Kawhi, thanks to Dot doing such a solid job. The emergence of Dotson as one of the top perimeter defenders surfaced during the Pacers game. Since then, Fizdale has freely given Dotson the toughest assignments.

Rookie Report

The payoff for these learning experiences is the development of rookies. Today’s best rookie was Kevin Knox, who looked great for the first time since returning from his injury. The key for him seems to be his start to the game. He hit his first two shots of the night and carried that confidence to a 12-point outing.

He continues to get his legs back underneath him and should be in line for a promotion to the starting lineup.

Allonzo Trier didn’t have his worst game, but he was abnormally quiet. He only took six shots and hit two of them to finish with seven points. He did manage to add a nice block to his box score.

Mitchell Robinson continues to be a human fly swatter while struggling with the little things. Chief among them is his screen setting. He still gets the finish here, but that was an ugly start.

It was nice to see all three share the floor to end the game. Now that Knox is healthy, Fizdale will likely group them together, especially if the game gets out of hand like it did tonight.

Random Thoughts

  • The Knicks continue to give up too many wide open threes, particularly in the corner.
  • Rebounding was once again the calling card. The combo of Vonleh and Kanter should give the Knicks the rebound advantage on most nights.
  • Mudiay still can’t figure out how to finish at the rim. If he can improve that part of his game, his game could perk up a bit.
  • Pascal Siakam came in with three made three-pointers on the season. Today he hit three three-pointers, all of which were wide open.
  • The potential for a dominant defense is evident. Once Porzingis returns, the starting lineup could really take control of games even if the offense is lacking.

The Knicks head back to MSG for a quick turnaround against the Orlando Magic.