The Porzingis–Hardaway Jr. tandem defeated Lowry–DeRozan after an exhilarating third quarter sparked an astounding 28-point run.
It was fitting that the Knicks all but sealed the victory with an emphatic Tim Hardaway Jr. drive and slam, putting them up 10 with 1:24 left:
THE EMPHATIC SLAM BY TIMMY! He has 38 points on the night!
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 23, 2017
Tim was undoubtedly the best player on the court Wednesday night, leading the Knicks to an impressive 108-100 victory over a Toronto Raptors team that had won six of seven and sat in third place in the East. The victory propelled the Knicks to 10-7, good for fifth in the conference heading into Thanksgiving—just as everyone predicted.
For a late November game, this match up felt like an important test for Jeff Hornacek’s young squad (KP deemed it a “revenge” game). The Raptors had won eight straight meetings, most recently last Friday’s 107-84 romp in Toronto. The Knicks took an L but bounced back to beat a fledgling Clippers team on Monday, however, New York lacked a signature win over a top Eastern Conference opponent since their Oct. 29 blowout in Cleveland.
Wednesday night’s contest was a tale of two halves. In an entertaining first half, the Knicks offense hummed along fine, but their defense was simply putrid. The Raptors shot 10-for-23(!) from three (and missed some open looks), continuing a troubling trend of poor three-point defense that has plagued the Knicks all season. The Raptors shot 50 percent in the first half and only committed five turnovers, led by reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week DeMar DeRozan (18 points on 7-of-12 from the field).
Fortunately, the Knicks drank their secret stuff in the locker room, and came out with a totally different defensive energy. Their effort noticeably improved, and they created havoc and generated turnovers that quickly turned into transition buckets. At one point, they had scored 28 straight points, and their disciplined yet feisty D clearly put the Raptors in disarray. The Knicks shot a flaming 16-of-24 in the frame and held the Raps to 1-of-16 from the field. Ultimately, they outscored Toronto by an unprecedented 31 points (41-10) in the third—the first time a Knicks team had ever won a quarter by that margin, as Kenny Albert mentioned on the broadcast.
As expected, the Knicks immediately took the foot off the gas to start the fourth. Sloppy passes, slower rotations, and lazier possessions allowed the Raps to quickly cut the lead to six. The Knicks locked up late, though (even Spike helped!), and clutch final minutes from Hardaway Jr. and Porzingis sealed the deal.
Speaking of Hardaway Jr: A common concern among Knicks faithful has been whether he can reliably provide another high-volume scoring option, and Wednesday night temporarily dispelled those worries, as he simply excelled for four quarters. He crucially kept the Knicks in the game in the first half by mirroring DeRozan’s production (19 points, 7-of-12). In general, he shot well from deep (4-of-9), his shot selection was appropriately aggressive (13-of-27), featuring a litany of strong takes and rim attacks, resulting to 10 FT attempts:
Timmy with the blow-by AND the finish!
ELUSIVE AND ABUSIVE, PER CLYDE
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 23, 2017
But it wasn’t just scoring. He played within the offense all night, spaced the floor, moved the rock, and (mostly) didn’t force things. His highlight-reel dish to Kanter for a fast break and-one ignited the third quarter run, and his high-activity level and athleticism was contagious, especially in transition.
He ran out of his gas in the fourth quarter on some drives but rebounded with a late three and the aforementioned dagger slam. Overall, he finished with a career-high 38 points, seven assists, and six boards in the finest all-around game of his career.
Porzingis also contributed a solid all-around effort, adding 22 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. His mildly-concerning string of inefficient shooting continued (8-of-21 from the field, 1-for-4 from three), a result of his tendency to hoist shaky shots in one-on-one scenarios, frequently from the mid-range. KP hit some major shots down the stretch, though, especially a back-to-back and-one (on a beautiful paint bounce-pass from Kanter) and three-ball that helped iced the game. Plus it’s always exciting when he gets a big block and immediately sprints to finish the dunk at the other end:
Porzingis is so special, this is routine now pic.twitter.com/JdKp84DsIr
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 23, 2017
Some other notable Knicks performances:
Courtney Lee continues to be contribute in a variety of areas, providing defensive savvy, steady shooting, and relentless effort. He added 15 points (7-of-12 field-goals), seven assists, five boards, and three steals, and held DeRozan scoreless in the second half on just three shots.
Enes Kanter (11 points, five rebounds) sparked the team early with his aggressive mindset, going back-and-forth with Jonas Valanciunas multiple times in the first few possessions. He ran the floor well all night, and overall held his own on defense. He memorably rocked the Garden early with a vicious dunk on Serge Ibaka that delightfully excited Frank:
— THE OAKLEY & ALLEN ARCHIVES (@vineydelnegro) November 23, 2017
Although Frank wasn’t the only one having fun on the Knicks bench:
Michael Beasley, NBA First Team All-BenchMob pic.twitter.com/0LMSWcKVzu
— LeRob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 23, 2017
Next up: The Knicks head south to face the Hawks on Friday.
Happy Thankzingis everyone!