Moments before the New York Knicks' kickoff, Toronto Raptors' faithful received the inevitable news of Scottie Barnes' unavailability. Barnes had suffered a right thumb sprain during Saturday's tie with the Indiana Pacers. But it was hoped that he would shake it off to feature at Madison Square Garden.
Unfortunately, however, the Raptors announced that X-rays on Barnes' hand came back negative. "Just a sprain," head coach Nick Nurse said before the game via online casino. "Don't really have a timeline on it. Doesn't seem awfully bad."
It came as a major blow for the Toronto side. Through seven games in his young NBA career, Barnes is averaging 18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and two assists per game. Such a return would be a plus for any side.
More shocking was the absence of home run hitters Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet from the lineup. Pascal Siakam, meanwhile, continued his recovery from a shoulder injury. On top of that, they were facing a Knicks team that came into this contest at 5-1 while getting standout performances from a star in the making in Julius Randle and one of the best young offensive talents in the NBA in RJ Barrett.
Someone had to step up to the plate. OG Anunoby did with aplomb. The 24-year-old scored a career-high 36 points to lead his team to their fourth straight win, beating the Knicks 113-104.
Gary Trent Jr. added 26 points for the Raptors, who surged into the lead by outscoring the Knicks 38-22 in the third quarter. VanVleet finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But it was Anunoby who stole the spotlight albeit belatedly.
Bouncing back from a disappointing first two games of the season, the 24-year-old has now averaged 22.8 points on 46.4% shooting with lockdown defense over the last six games. He drilled four 3-pointers and used his size to muscle towards the rim to get easy shots.
"Probably just adjusting to how I'm being guarded. Watching film. Knowing what people are going to do, if people are going to double. And then just reviewing shots, seeing if I'm rushing it. Just taking my landing. Just reviewing the film," Anunoby said of the adjustment.
His 19 first-half points saved Toronto early. He and Trent helped spark a 24-13 run in the second quarter, to pull the Raptors to within just four heading into the break. When the second half rolled around, Anunoby provided the knockout punch, nailing a pair of three-pointers and connecting on a beautiful alley-oop slam from VanVleet.
"I think that we told him ‘we’ll let you develop a lot more offensive opportunities but we don’t want to let your foot off the gas at the other end’ because we consider him one of the better, top, top defenders in the league," Nurse said via www.casinoza.com. "It’s good that he’s getting in shape, he’s able to play hard at both ends."
The Knicks got a 27 points and 5-of-8 three-point shooting from Canadian men’s team star RJ Barrett, who followed up his 35-point career-high from Saturday in fine style.
The Raptors face Washington Wizards on Thursday. There won't be much to fear over, though, should Anunoby travel with his charm.