The Knicks went back and forth during Friday night’s game with reigning champion Raptors, but crumbled in the fourth quarter again.
The Toronto Raptors (31-14) defeated the New York Knicks (12-34) by a final score of 118-112. Marcus Morris finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists for the Knicks, while 2020 All-Star starter Pascal Siakam finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists for the Raptors. With the loss, the Knicks have dropped eight of their last 10 games—a stunning development after the better stretch of play during Mike Miller’s start as interim head coach.
New York has been boring for the better half of six weeks largely because of the starting lineup and the (apparent, almost blatant) push to start veteran players over the youth in the midst of a sixth straight losing season. “Star Wars night,” weeks after other teams held theirs in the lead-up to another tentpole film in the sci-fi franchise, was an afterthought and the Raptors came in as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, so this felt like a loss.
It was indeed a loss, but it was a fine loss. The Knicks fought hard, battled back in between Toronto runs and even kept it close before the Canadian club’s talent and system-based precision took over for the night.
To the Knicks’ credit, they played well to start the game. It was a team effort as Elfrid Payton was creating early and often for the likes of Julius Randle, Morris, and Mitchell Robinson. Randle, who struggled a bit offensively in the first half, did his best to attack the glass, even grabbing four rebounds within a six-possession stretch.
Randle stays with it and pulls the Knicks to within 2! pic.twitter.com/VVrxLfaXGR— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 25, 2020
But the Knicks defense’ broke again. Toronto, who scored 20 points in the first quarter, scored 36 alone in the second. Fred VanVleet’s fingerprints were all over this quarter, as the fourth-year undrafted guard did a great job of finding his spots offensively. If he wasn’t perusing the lane, VanVleet was finding Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell for a few good looks from the perimeter. The Raptors, much like the Knicks in the first, got a group effort on offense.
The second half was much of the same. Both teams went back and forth offensively with New York being carried by Marcus Morris. Morris, like he normally does, found himself carrying the scoring load with tough shots between the third and fourth quarters. There were even a few solid possessions where the Knicks made some pinging passes to get open threes, one by Morris, the other by Bobby Portis, to make the game close.
Even as the Knicks tied the game with three minutes to go, there was no rush from Toronto. They got into their offensive set with VanVleet found a rolling Marc Gasol, who found a wide-open OG Anunoby for an open three to regain the lead. It was nothing special, but it also a simple moment that showed you why the Raptors are among the best in the East are and, well, where the Knicks stand in the pecking order.
Pascal Siakam finished the Knicks off by drawing an off-ball foul on Bobby Portis (resulting in two free throws for Kyle Lowry), a drive and dunk at the rim, and then a three after the Knicks struggled to pick him up off a switch.
Let’s go to the notes
- The Knicks need to do some trades. That’s it. That’s all I got here.
- The Knicks should have Fred VanVleet (@KyleMaggio) as their number one free agency target since Anthony Davis will more than likely re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Elfrid Payton had a good game but also showed his flaws. Right now, Payton (13 points, 11 assists, and two steals) is the only one who can operate and navigate the offense, which shows when he sits on the bench. Against Toronto, Payton did a good job initiating action and finding players for good looks. As a veteran should, Elf never looked sped up. That said, there were a few possessions near the end of the game where he just couldn’t have the ball in his hands because he can’t shoot. As Toronto locked up defensively, Payton was restricted and relegated to a ball mover rather than a creator.
- Julius Randle had a solid game—21 points and 10 rebounds—but he got that on 15 shots, made just one of his four threes, and looked like food defending reigning Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam. His best games and worst games don’t like too dissimilar these days. That said, Randle played alright and I think he gets a bit too much stick, while also thinking the Knicks should trade him as soon as possible.
- Kevin Knox: 11 minutes; Frank Ntilikina: 13 minutes; Mitchell Robinson: 22 minutes (only two fouls).
- Not only should the Knicks keep Damyean Dotson (21 points, four made threes) after the trade deadline, but the Knicks should probably look into keeping him for the foreseeable future. Tonight, Dotson played well off of the likes of Randle and Morris, knocking down some triples. When he was asked to create, he looked good attempting to attack and create space. He does the very little things, even if he doesn’t do it at an elite level.
- To continue the Dotson love, I think the Knicks would be wise to sign him to a three-year deal, worth somewhere between $10-$12 million. It pays a second-round pick, while also locking in Dotson through his age-28 season.
DOT DOES IT AGAIN!!! 21 points in 21 minutes! 4/7 from Deep pic.twitter.com/TF6TRJMbMQ— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 25, 2020
The Knicks host the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.