One would think that the New York Knicks are a perfect team to face while incorporating a new player. However that turned out to be only partially true as Marc Gasol put forth a very solid game in his debut, with seven points, six rebounds, and one block while the rest of the team (minus Kyle Lowry) was largely poor.
The Raptors started the game slow, missing shots (started 1-for-10 from the field) and being a step slow collecting loose balls. I counted at least four Knicks’ dunks in the first quarter which is not ideal. It wasn’t until the Raptors started playing in transition with the Gasol (!) and the bench unit that they made any sort of impact on the game.
To start the second quarter it was clear the Raptors were looking to get Gasol involved. He received a few post touches and played in the pick-and-roll with Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet. Gasol’s feel for passing and defensive instincts were apparent right away. We even got a glimpse of his smooth signature fadeaway. Apart from a few moments of uncertainty the bench unit looked pretty comfortable with each other (an encouraging sign!).
Elsewhere in the game the Raptors had trouble putting the ball in the hoop, shooting 35.6% from the field in the first half. Some of that credit can go to the Knicks who were really aggressive playing at home. If Dennis Smith Jr. is throwing half court alley oops to Deandre Jordan you know it’s going to be a long night (he missed the dunk for what it’s worth).
Coming out of halftime the message was pretty clear: Be more aggressive defensively and push the ball in transition. We’ve seen this a few times now starting the third where Leonard is relentless attacking the rim and Siakam leaks out after every defensive rebound. It’s a pretty good strategy for the Raptors although the Knicks lingered around cutting their own deficit to five heading into the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry was super too raining threes. He finished the game with 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three.
The fourth quarter was pretty annoying for the Raptors. The Knicks dialled up the pressure on the back of rookie Mitchell Robinson who finished the game with with 15 points and 3 blocks. The Knicks intensity left the Raptors feeling a bit disjointed on offense. But a win is a win and the Raptors will likely go home feeling okay. They couldn’t hit anything tonight and besides Gasol and Lowry no one played particularly well. That’s going to bounce back. As Jack Armstrong said it best, tonight was the Raptors’ “C game”. A welcome to Big Spain while the Raptors head home to Toronto until the all star break.