The Toronto Raptors headed out onto a road trip this week, with the first stop being a holiday afternoon game in New York against the Knicks. After a pretty rough night at home Saturday against the Hawks, the Raptors were hoping to get this road trip started on the right foot.
Fred VanVleet had been questionable leading up to the game, with his back soreness returning — but he was cleared and joined the starting lineup along with Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes and O.G. Anunoby. Eventually, it was VanVleet who became the winning factor at the Garden.
You may remember the Raptors’ last trip to Madison Square Garden, when Pascal Siakam scored a career high 52 points — was an afternoon 50-piece in store for him? Maybe not, but the memories are still fresh, and everyone loves playing at MSG. It’s easy to get anyone going at an iconic venue like that.
These two teams played in Toronto just three weeks AFTER that 52 point game, with Canada’s own R.J. Barrett sitting out due to injury. Barrett was present in the lineup for the Knicks this afternoon, which surely they were happy about — it’s always a great opportunity for a big game when you’re playing your home team.
The game started with a 6-0 run from New York, with fears of a repeat of their 18-2 start from Saturday surfacing quickly. Yet, it was Gary Trent Jr and Pascal Siakam who made sure to come back early.
The Raptors followed that up by going on a 14-4 run themselves, so obviously lessons were learned from Saturday.
The rest of the first quarter showed the Raptors playing well, not letting the Knicks get anything too easily, but also not hitting as much offence as they could have. There were a few great moments including some Trent Jr shots, a Barnes slam, and an INCREDIBLE Anunoby dime to Siakam.
The Raptors held off the Knicks after one quarter, leading 29-25
The second quarter saw the Raptors continue to be aggressive in the paint, and by midway through they had made 14 trips to the free throw line.
Scottie Barnes in particular was being aggressive and strong. In a lineup with him, Siakam, and the bench he continued to play make, but also get himself to the rim.
Yet, it only took a quick turnover and a couple baskets for the Knicks to close the gap in score and go off on their own run. They went on a 22-6 run through the middle of the second quarter. The half ended with the Raptors down 59-56. Not abysmal but not ideal.
Scottie Barnes continued to have a great game for the Raptors, crashing the Offensive glass and giving the Raptors more opportunity to try and get back on top. Fred VanVleet was hot as well, leading the Raptors part-way through the third with 22 points.
Yet, the Raptors were trailing heading into the fourth 87-81.
It was very back and forth, though the Raptors never fell far enough to exclude them from a chance at winning. With five minutes in the game they were down five points, with VanVleet and Trent Jr continuing to keep the offence alive.
As the game winded down, it looked like the Raptors had a fighting chance just based on the defence they were playing. Getting stops, blocking shots, and giving themselves opportunity to get ahead. Fred VanVleet continued to light it up, as he does in clutch situations. Nice to see, as his inconsistency this season has often resulted in some losses for the Raptors, and he’s the kinda guy you want to see do well.
VanVleet tied the game with 1.5 minutes to go, and we had a close game on our hands! The last minute of action saw Scottie score a basket along with the and-one, along with Siakam and Anunoby each playing with five fouls... and A LOT OF STRESS.
Unfortunately, it was back to back misses on an offensive position, and then a foul taken by Fred VanVleet sending New York back to the line, that kept the score too close for comfort. The Knicks had a one point lead, with 18.8 seconds left in the game. Raptors ball.
Scottie Barnes saved the day once again, getting the rebound, the foul, and making BOTH free throws to bring the Raptors up by one. Knicks ball.
A miss PLUS a foul on Julius Randle of New York brought the ball back to the Raptors, but RJ BARRETT is OF COURSE THE ONE to get the rebound on the missed shot, go coast to coast, take down an empty lane (WHY!?!) to tie it up.
Being outsmarted by Canada Basketball talent is more painful than anything— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 16, 2023
To overtime we went.
OT saw O.G. Anunoby score multiple three’s and the Raptors get stops. Scottie had remarkable vision in his assists, and the Raptors played good defence. Pascal Siakam may have missed a three, but he followed up with a slam plus the foul.
It was INCREDIBLY stressful to see the Raptors play so well and hope that they close out. While the Raptors can be really good in clutch situations, they often fail to close games with a W in tight situations.
With 1:20 left, Siakam is fouled out — which, frankly, is awful for their chances in any situation. Nick Nurse replaced Siakam with Precious Achiuwa, whose defence has been energizing since his return. The right call to replace Siakam, in my opinion.
Truly the longest minute of life. Barrett takes a couple of free throws to bring the Knicks within three, and on the last possession, it’s Precious Achiuwa who misses a three — but it’s too late for Knicks.
The Raptors GRIND OUT the win in Overtime, 123-121 over the New York Knicks.
Don’t get too comfortable though, the Knicks will return to Toronto NEXT WEEK to seek revenge.
It was a GREAT game for both Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes. VanVleet scored 33 points, eight assists and five rebounds, and was CLUTCH for the Raptors in the close out. Scottie Barnes made multiple ESSENTIAL plays including rebounds, wild assists, and a handful of free throws that allowed the Raptors to not only bring it to Overtime, but win the game. He ended the game with 26 points, four assists and seven rebounds.
The Raptors now travel to Milwaukee where they will face the top-seeded Bucks and MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokuonmpo. Catch that game on TSN, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. EST.