The Raptors return home from their second tough road trip of the young season. After going 3–3 on an early west coast swing, they most recently went 2–1 on a tough trip through Boston, Houston and New Orleans. The Celtics have now won 14 straight, including last night against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
With a 9–5 record overall, the Raps look like they are headed for another 50+ win season. They are a little banged up. Norm Powell has a hip pointer that kept him out of the last couple of games and Delon Wright hurt his shoulder in the last game. Both are out for tonight. Serge Ibaka is having some knee trouble and is being held out as well. Good thing they are one of the deeper teams in the league.
Pascal Siakam is starting in Ibaka’s place. Rookie OG Anunoby has started in Powell’s place the last 2 games. He held James Harden to 2-for-15 shooting in a great performance in Houston, helping the Raps to their most impressive win of the season. He was not as good against New Orleans, but didn’t hurt the team. Fred Van Vleet will get some extra minutes with Delon out. He’s been earning an expanded role, even closing some games despite his trouble finishing in the lane. Making open 3's and being a Steady Eddie on both ends of the floor has served him well.
For New York, Kristaps Porzingis is more ready for the post-Melo era than people thought. He’s scoring 29 points a game, and the Knicks are 8–6 with playoff visions dancing in their heads. Tonight the Raptors look to send a message to these upstarts establishing their dominance.
End of Q1: Raps 30, Knicks 18
Porzingis is scoreless. Anunoby and Siakam are defending him well, and Bebe sent one of his shots into the stands. Their rookie, Frank Ntilikina, is tall for a point guard and plays hard. He looks like he will be a good defender, but got baited into fouling CJ Miles twice on 3-point attempts. Lorenzo Brown, the 4th-string point guard, is in the rotation tonight!
CJ Miles starts the 2nd with a long jumper and an alley-oop to Bebe. The Raps’ offense is humming and the ball is zipping to open shooters. Meanwhile the Knicks are struggling to get anything going. Porzingis comes back in, still scoreless. He makes a 3 to get on the board. Lowry checks him on the perimeter for a couple of plays and stifles him, then exposes him in transition to get Siakam a layup. He’s not looking like a 29 PPG guy. Kanter is rolling against JV. Those 2 have a rivalry dating back to their European youth basketball days. Lowry eviscerated the Knicks for 3 solid minutes to close the half. A sweet halfcourt alley-oop to DeRozan, pull-up 3's, passes zipped to cutters the D didn’t know were there…he has 16 points at the half to lead all scorers.
DeRozan is getting his to start the second half. The midrange J’s are raining down. Porzingis continues to struggle against OG and Siakam. He has missed 9 of his first 11 shots, only making a couple of spot-up 3's. He gets off a bit when the Raps put CJ Miles or Bebe on him late in the 3rd. DeRozan makes him look silly in the pick-and-roll a couple times on the other end, waltzing in for layups.
End of Q3: Raps 78, Knicks 64
The Raps are letting the Knicks know just how far they have to go before they can think about being on their level. CJ Miles hits an ignorant 3 with a defender right in his face with 5:22 left to make it 97–78. Michael Beasley is in the game doing the 2 things he does best: getting buckets and making bonehead mistakes. The Raps keep their foot on the gas. Bruno is active. We may see him to close this out.
The Knicks clear their bench, but the Raps do not. Come on, Casey. We want Bruno! McKinnie, Brown and Van Vleet check in with 2:37 left. Still no Bruno. Siakam throws a nonsense behind-the-back pass for a turnover. Still no Bruno. Damn you, Casey. Bruno is the first Raptor to head for the locker room as the clock runs out.