Coming off an emotional win on Friday over the Western Conference-leading Rockets, the Raptors were almost set up to fail today.
They had a quick turnaround to play New York on the road. They got the last-minute “we got this” boost of getting Delon Wright back from injury, and not having to play Enes Kanter. Benjamin Franklin’s worst invention — daylight savings time — basically turned a 1 PM start into a noon start. The Raptors had every excuse for playing like crap, and taking a schedule loss to the Knicks.
Instead, they did what they’ve done all year: clocked in, got enough energetic performances (mostly from their young guys), and blew out a bad team. The 132-106 win was impressive, not because it came against the Knicks, but because it showed a team that wasn’t okay resting on their laurels. Toronto’s win streak is up to eight games now, and at 49-17 the 60-win mark is starting to seem realistic.
The bench was the story in this one, as all seven players from the second unit got minutes, and amassed 69 of the team’s 132 points. Every bench player shot better than 50% from the field, with C.J. Miles leading the mob with 13 points (3-for-6 from distance, including a ridiculous banker to end the first half). It was more than Miles, though, you could go down the line and say every player had impact on Sunday.
In fact... let’s go down the damn line!
Pascal Siakam was a +23, scoring nine points, and adding seven rebounds and six(!!) assists. Two of those helpers came on brilliant transition plays in the second quarter, allowing Toronto to go on a 9-0 run that initially opened up this game.
Delon Wright had 12 points and made both his threes, looking fantastic even though he admitted post-game his toe injury was still bothersome. Jakob Poeltl looked simpatico with Siakam for his ten points. Fred VanVleet made 4-of-5 for 10 points, and was a +17. Malcolm Miller looked sweet with the stroke, making 2-for-3 triples for eight points. Nigel Hayes, in his Raptors debut, wrote a Yahoo Answers response on how to extend a 10-day contract in the NBA — he made two threes in the span of a minute after checking in.
All afternoon, it was apparent the Raptors were going to get whatever they wanted against a brutal Knicks defense, but thankfully a lethargic start was balanced by Jonas Valanciunas. Coming off his best defensive game of the year against Houston, Valanciunas got to work on offense — six free throw attempts in the first quarter got him to ten points, as he finished with 17, nine rebounds, and two assists.
Welcome to your Kodak moment pic.twitter.com/pfeRKRrCtE— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 11, 2018
In the second, a five-point Raptors lead was extended as the bench started to do their thing. Wright had a couple impressive layups in the paint, and Siakam had those transition passes, as Toronto was able to get the game into double digits. When the starters returned, the Raptors started to dog it a bit on defense — Lowry was gambling more than you’d like, and it allowed the Knicks to hang on. Toronto went into halftime up eight.
Then, in the third, the game broke open. Lowry decided five minutes of good basketball would be enough to get his team their eight straight win (he was right), making a three and adding an and-one in quick succession to build the Raptors lead to 16. The bench then returned, and a pair of C.J. Miles threes basically sealed it.
From there, it was a parade of plays from Toronto’s bench. In a game where DeMar DeRozan had just nine points on 16 shots, the depth was again a decisive factor in getting the team a win against a bad opponent. It was almost sneaky how the Raptors approached a franchise record for points in a regulation game, as they fell just short.
132 points is tied for 2nd-most the Raptors have scored in a regulation game in franchise history. They set the team record (133) in the win over Cleveland earlier this season.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 11, 2018
With the 26-point win, the Raptors now have the best point differential (+8.8) in the NBA. All year, they’ve taken care of business against bad teams. Part of that is being good, and part of that is being young enough not to get complacent. This team is more #ProveEm than just DeMar DeRozan — each and every game there’s a handful of players who are willing to provide energy and lift things up.
It happened again on Sunday, and the Raptors continued their win streak.