There have been times in modern Raptors history where they face a terrible opponent and play down to their levels, frustrating everyone.
These memories even come from the location of tonight’s game, Madison Square Garden, where the 2017-18 Knicks hung a 28-0 run on the Raptors in the third quarter to eventually hand Toronto their most unlikely loss of the season. These games disappoint us all.
Readers, this was not one of those nights.
On Thursday, Toronto did their business and took care of a very sad New York Knicks team, leading wire-to-wire and winning 117-92. They were led by 31 points, five assists, and five rebounds from Pascal Siakam, who was a +31 in 31 minutes and seemingly played like he had hit the court fresh from watching The Jump.
Siakam wasn’t alone in this one, though. The Raptors starters were uniformly excellent in their minutes on the floor, as Toronto improves to 12-1 in games this season where Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet make up the starting backcourt.
The ball hummed around with those two together, improved by the selflessness of Marc Gasol at centre. VanVleet would finish with the better line, as he had 12 points and eight assists, marking a +27. Rounding out the starters, Danny Green had 15 points on a 5-for-8 night from deep.
The Knicks? Well, it was hard to watch — and that’s being generous. The rim mics got a workout on whatever side of the floor New York was shooting on, as their game devolved into trying to get Mitchell Robinson a 20/20 game (they could not). The Knicks shot — wait for it — 36.5% from the field, 23.1% from three, and 75.0% from the line, unable to take advantage of a free throw attempt disparity of 32-22.
Leading for the Knicks was 19 points off the bench for the aforementioned Robinson. New York’s starters played like they hadn’t even looked at a scouting report, letting Pascal Siakam run wild in transition, trying to post up Kyle Lowry, closing on the wrong shooter to leave Danny Green open in the corner.
It wasn’t a game where you could glean much as a Raptors fan, because the Knicks were godawful. Their starters finished no better than a -18, with only Emmanuel Mudiay dipping his toe in double-digits with 11 points.
Such is the nature of the tank, though. At 14-61, the Knicks are certainly dyin’ for Zion, and if that was their game plan — it was apparent from the opening tip.
In the first, Siakam leaked out for two easy buckets early to give the Raptors a 12-8 lead. From there, Gasol had a few wicked passes, one setting up Green in the corner by splitting a few white jerseys, the other finding Lowry at the rim.
The dime: Money— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 28, 2019
The shot: Money pic.twitter.com/aKcHDCnC8V
A 7-0 run midway through the quarter made it 19-10, which was followed by 12 missed shots in a row by New York — making it 25-12.
The Raptors bench sputtered a bit at the end of the first, as four guys played alongside Fred VanVleet. Compounding matters, Kyle Lowry picked up his third foul just 4:30 into the second, forcing Nick Nurse to get creative.
And creative he would get! We got a rare extended look at a frontcourt of Gasol and Serge Ibaka, with Siakam playing at small forward. The result worked — again, with the asterisk that these are the Knicks — as Siakam hit two wing threes and the Raptors made it 55-36 at the half.
Out of the break, an 8-4 Raptors run would turn this one into a true blowout. We got another look at Ibaka-Gasol late in the third, as Ibaka would have the better night with 10 points and 10 rebounds. About midway through the fourth, Nurse went ultra bench, bringing in Jodie Meeks, Malcolm Miller, and Chris Boucher to finish proceedings.
Next up, the Raptors head to Chicago for their second game against the Bulls in a week — this time, after Lauri Markannen was officially shut down. Optimists, expect more of the same.