Make it four straight.
The Toronto Raptors continued their recent roll at Madison Square Garden tonight, and it was heart, hustle, and a heavy dose of OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. that got them there. The two combined to score 72 points, as Toronto came back from 15 down in the first half to beat the Knicks, 113-104.
Scoring 36 points on 27 shots, Anunoby eclipsed his career-high in points (previously 32) and is easily the headline from this game. Throughout his 41 minutes on the court, OG basically showed the entire package of what his aspirations are at the offensive end. There were step-back threes, mid-range fadeaways and a healthy number of moves off transition post-ups. Anunoby was relied on heavily, especially given the absences of Scottie Barnes and (still) Pascal Siakam, and he delivered in spades. OG also had six rebounds, two assists and a steal in the win — while only committing one turnover.
While OG got them to the finish line, though, it was arguably Gary Trent Jr. that set the tempo for how the team would end up defending. Trent Jr. was excellent at the point of attack all game long, pestering and frustrating Knicks guards into rushed offensive possessions. Gary also had his shot going from all over tonight, scoring 26 points — including 4-for-11 from three — as a high volume outing didn’t end up disastrous. In fact, with both Gary Trent Jr. and Anunoby needing to eat a full meal of shots in a tight Toronto rotation — these may have been their best performances in Raptors uniforms.
The Knicks got off to a great start on Monday, no surprise as they came in 5-1 and one of the East’s best teams. New York would build an eight-point lead before the first quarter was over, as an 8-for-13 start from three included a red hot Julius Randle, who was 4-for-5 individually. The Raptors defense was at its worst here, as a starting lineup with Svi Mykhailiuk in place of an injured Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa matched up with Mitchell Robinson combined for a lineup both undersized and underwhelming.
Nick Nurse started experimenting in the second, though, and eventually the tinkering would pay off. Dalano Banton and Chris Boucher were the first Raptors off the bench, but it was Malachi Flynn who was best able to work off the offensive gravity of Anunoby and Trent Jr.
Checking in at the 5:03 mark, Flynn gave the team some solid minutes on the defensive end, forming a solid one-two pairing of annoyance with GTJ. While a line of three points and two assists won’t turn heads, this stretch was key for Flynn and the Raps and allowed them to cut a 15-point Knicks lead down to just four before the break.
In the third quarter, the Raptors were able to build their lead. Nurse went to a lineup of Fred VanVleet, Trent Jr., Mykhailiuk, Anunoby and Khem Birch, then just... didn’t take them out for the entire quarter. It’s the first time this season that an NBA team played one lineup for an entire quarter, and the reasons for doing so were obvious. Along with the four guys playing the best, Birch was a calming presence in the half court offense. Setting solid screens, making himself available in open spots and getting on the glass — Birch ended up a game-high +20, with six points and eight rebounds in a bench-high 31 minutes.
The Knicks were able to threaten late, but a VanVleet three under four minutes (the guy has great timing) and the OG step back shown above was enough to keep the home team at bay, as the visiting aggressors were paid off with a victory.
Next up for Toronto is a matchup with the Wizards on Wednesday at 6 p.m.