Julius Randle’s near triple-double is not enough as the Knicks dropped a tough back-and-forth overtime game against the Toronto Raptors. 

The New York Knicks (25-20) dropped a tough-fought matinee game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the Toronto Raptors (20-24) at Madison Square Garden by a final score of 123-121. Julius Randle finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists for the Knicks, while RJ Barrett had a team-high 32 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. For Toronto, Fred VanVleet had 33 points, eight assists and five made threes, while Scottie Barnes had 26 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

The Raptors have had a disappointing go of it this season, entering Monday’s contest with a sub-.500 record. Between, the regression of second-year pro Scottie Barnes, the lack of defense outside of Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam, and an injured bench group, Toronto has struggled this season; coming off a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and even saw their recent home winning streak against the Knicks snapped earlier in the month.

Meanwhile, the Knicks have been surging to start the new year. They rank first in net rating, have the most wins, and have the best defensive rating over the last six weeks amongst all Eastern Conference teams. Thanks to the combination of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle playing dominant basketball as of late, the Knicks came into their Monday matinee game, looking for a small win streak against the Raptors and to further continue their successful stretch of basketball.

However, even with five extra minutes of overtime to regain their composure, New York was unable to get much going over Toronto, who played very tough defense all afternoon.

The Knicks struck early with a Jalen Brunson lay-in and back-to-back baskets from Barrett and Randle. However, Toronto began to get outside shots, with infamous Knick killer Gary Trent Jr. getting a few shots of his own to tie the game up. That back-and-forth was only foreshadowing the rest of the game. The Knicks were contesting almost everything in the paint, but it was allowing the Raptors to get shots off from distance. Toronto’s defense was also formidable, and it led to three early turnovers for the Knicks. They were eventually able to regain their composure behind some timely Randle scoring, and they only trailed by four heading into the second quarter.

To open the second quarter, New York looked flat. Not only were the Raptors getting into a proper offensive rhythm with easy inside looks from Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes, but they were also showing their strength on defense, pestering the Knicks and forcing bad shots. Foul trouble also came into play with New York, but a solid effort from Isaiah Hartenstein defensively allowed the Knicks to bother Toronto enough to get back into the game. Once Brunson and Randle were reinserted onto the floor, the Knicks managed to make it a close and contentious game.

The Knicks finished up the first half leading the Raps by three, with Brunson leading the team in scoring with 15 points.

Entering the second half, New York had a game plan- keep their foul troubles to a minimum and try and attack a smaller Raptors squad in the paint in order to gain more of a scoring advantage. Enter Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett. Barrett picked up two quick shooting fouls to open the period up and was perfect from the line, helping New York to extend their lead to six. Unfortunately, rebounding continued to be an issue for them in the game and they allowed Toronto to take advantage of boards. VanVleet, who has struggled from three-point range all season, was also locking in from distance. Both teams were struggling to keep any rhythm on offense, though, and there were no big runs well into the third for either squad.

Cooler heads were seeking to prevail in order to close out this game in the fourth quarter, with both teams frustrated all afternoon with perceived calls and no calls that were not in their favor. The Knicks had good ball movement and good looks to open the fourth, while the Raptors were slowing things down with more isolation plays. Some sloppy play midway through the period helped Toronto gain some ground, resulting in them cutting into New York’s lead.

Even as both Randle and Brunson came up big with two shooting fouls in crunch time, they both missed one of their two shots and only got New York up by one with 18 seconds left in the game. After a missed three pointer from VanVleet, Barnes drew a foul off Barrett and hit two free throws to get his team back up by one. All hope was lost until Barrett threw an emphatic slam dunk over Barnes to tie things up and send the Knicks to overtime.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau started overtime with his starting lineup and while tired, they were still strong on defense. For Toronto, VanVleet did a good job of navigating through Knicks defenders, and OG Anunoby, wide open in the corner, knocked down a three-pointer to extend Toronto’s overtime lead to five. New York showed fight one last time, climbing back to within two points with 30 seconds in overtime. But, with the last shot of the game after very clutch free throws from Barrett, Brunson missed a three-pointer that would have won the game for the Knicks, and New York lost by two.

The Knicks will remain home at the Garden to face the Washington Wizards (18-26) on Wednesday, January 18th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.