The Toronto Raptors will play the New York Knicks tonight at Scotiabank Arena — yes, the very team Pascal Siakam dropped 52 points on just three weeks ago.
If you missed it, not only did Pascal Siakam score that much in one of the world’s greatest entertainment venues, it was also the end to the Raptors infamous six game losing streak. Yet, they’ve only won twice since — against Cleveland and Pheonix.
The Knicks on the other hand, went into a losing streak of their own after Siakam successfully snapped their own winning streak. It’s since ended, but after being schooled in their own home, the Knicks have every right to try and bring it right back to the Raptors.
The sad news is that we will be missing out on a homecoming for R.J. Barrett, the beloved Canadian who was drafted to the Knicks just a few short years ago. He will miss tonight’s game with a finger injury.
The good news for the Raptors is that their injury list is back on the short side, with the only name on it being Otto Porter Jr. With Precious Achiuwa back after injury, and hopefully improving his conditioning, he could make an impact the Raptors need very much.
The new year marked an important shift in the Raptors season. After a rocky November and December, time is ticking away for the team to turn the season around. With the NBA trade deadline fast approaching in early February, many think the Raptors could get involved in the market.
Even if they do, what’s the endgame this season? Are they making a run for it, or laying low in hopes of the basketball gods sending a particular tall French kid their way?
Match up: Toronto Raptors (16-22) vs New York Knicks (21-18)
When: Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scotiabank Arena if you can nab a ticket, otherwise broadcasting on Sportsnet.
Toronto: Otto Porter Jr. (hip)
New York: R.J. Barrett (finger)
Toronto: Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby
New York: Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson
Pascal Siakam - Another big night?
We all remember Siakam’s last game against the Knicks — it was three weeks ago. Around that time, he went on a crazy streak of eight games with 25+ points, tying Vince Carter for most 25+ point games in franchise history.
Unfortunately, the streak was broken during Wednesday night’s wonky game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Offence was low on both teams, but Pascal suffered and only scored 11 points.
We can attribute that to the weirdness of the game in general though — and although sad the streak is over, it’s not like Pascal (in his current form) to play poorly two games in a row. So, we should expect great things from him.
Plus, I’m sure that 52-piece is still fresh in his mind.
Gary Trent Jr. — HOLD ON TIGHT
The Raptors were down 12 against The Bucks Wednesday night with just over a minute and a half of the GAME left. Miraculously, they took to overtime.
The Raptors lost, yes. But this might be the biggest comeback I’ve ever seen in terms of deficit with time remaining. pic.twitter.com/Oy6WOTXZGb— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) January 5, 2023
Most of the reason behind the last game push was Gary Trent Jr., who sunk a few MONSTER three pointers to bring the team back to life. You gotta admit, the guy is CLUTCH.
He’s proven to be a key factor in the Raptors offence over the last couple of weeks, especially as Fred VanVleet has been in and out of the lineup with injury. If I were the coaching staff, knowing how well the Knicks can shoot, I’d put Trent Jr. in the starting lineup again.
He’s averaging 16.9 points per game, and has scored 20+ in his last five games. He’s a “hooper” as the kids would say. He’s also tough, gets hot quickly, and doesn’t lack the confidence needed to keep shooting even when they aren’t falling yet.
Cause when they do... well they are a sight to see.
All of these things the Raptors need desperately right now.
The Bench — Will they or won’t they?
The Toronto Raptors bench isn’t... doing well. There are a few factors to it. The Raptors certainly don’t have the level of depth they’d like to in terms of talent, sure — but also, there is ZERO trust in them to begin with.
It’s the reason guys like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet lead the league in minutes per game. It helped a little when Trent Jr. was leading the bench, but you can’t expect a player as good as him, who is currently gaining momenum, to be on the bench.
The Raptors bench is currently averaging 30.5 points per game this season, ranking 26th overall in the NBA. Since Christmas (so, just under two weeks go), that number has dipped to 23.2 points per game (28th in the league).
When you factor in that the Raptors are averaging 111.5 points per game total this season, the fact that the bench isn’t even accounting for a third of those is a concern. Luckily, Precious Achiuwa being back could help this — BUT the Raptors need players like Chris Boucher and Christian Koloko to also step it up. Especially when you think about the Raptors biggest weakness being their lack of depth in the Centre position.
It’ll be another fight to the finish for the Raptors, and you can catch it all on Sportsnet at 7:30 p.m. EST.