The Raptors are taking a short break from their homestand with a one-off trip to the Big Apple to go head-to-head with some familiar faces. This will be the first matchup against the New York Knicks since the trade that sent O.G. Anunoby, Malachi Flynn, and Precious Achiuwa south in exchange for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. So far, both sides seem pretty happy with the result of the trade, but as always, it will be interesting to see who shows up for a “revenge” game tonight, and puts it on the head of their former team.
Quickley and Barrett have both benefited from the trade, especially from a stats perspective. In his 10 games since the trade, Quickley has jumped from 15/2.6/2.5 to 18/5/5. He’s shooting better from beyond the arc by a healthy 5.5% as well, which is saying a lot for the limited time he’s had to integrate into the Raptors’ system. RJ has also seen a statistical improvement from 18/4/2 to 20/7/4 with a 6% increase in his 3P% on his new team. While the jump is partially due to their role with the Raps, it’s obvious they’re fitting in and performing well since the trade. It’ll be interesting to see how they come out against their former team tonight, and whether they’re able to use their statistical improvements and confidence in their new roles to help pull out the victory.
The Knicks have won the first two matchups of the season, but with the changes in personnel for both sides, it’s impossible not to recognize how different this contest will look. With O.G. in the lineup, the Knicks have gone 8-2, with their two losses coming by a margin of only four points each. He’s already being praised for his defensive prowess and the impact that he’s had on his new team. In fact, tweets like this one are becoming common as Knicks fans and media are becoming acclimated with his game:
The Raptors will have to now face the defensive weapon that they built, amid their shift in direction to rebuild their roster. The Raptors have gone 4-6 since the trade with New York and with Pascal departing for Indiana, the Raptors have been 1-1 in those two games since. Despite the roster shift and limited practice time for the new guys, they’ve been demonstrating a smooth offence and managed to dominate the Miami Heat and keep up with the Chicago Bulls. Of course, the outcome of games may be taking a backseat to development for a while, and wherever you sit on the debate of whether or not the Raptors should tank, if they are trying to come away with the win tonight, they’ll need to make sure they are winning the minutes without O.G. on the floor, and levelling up their late-game decision making.
How to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 pm ET
Toronto: Scottie Barnes, Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, Jontay Porter, Gary Trent Jr.
New York: Jalen Brunson, O.G. Anunoby, Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein, Donte Divincenzo
Toronto: Javon Freeman-Liberty (Out; G-League, Two-way), Kira Lewis Jr. (Out; G-League, On Assignment), Markquis Nowell (Out; G-League, Two-way), Jakob Poeltl (Out; Ankle sprain), Otto Porter Jr. (Doubtful; Right knee sprain).
New York: Mitchell Robinson (Out; Ankle), Josh Hart (Questionable; Knee)
While we’re checking in on everyone involved in the trade, the other two ex-Raptors haven’t had as much smooth sailing since reaching New York. In part that’s likely due to the roster construction with the Knicks having a deeper bench, few injuries, and limited playing time to spread out. For Malachi, five minutes a game isn’t much to prove himself, but averaging 2 points and shooting only 14% from beyond the arc has likely limited the amount of time he’ll see the floor as well. Precious’ stats have dropped across the board too, and he’s only seeing about 10 minutes of playing time per game. It’s unlikely the Raptors will see as much of those two tonight, so their game plan likely won’t have to account for them as much as the other former Raptor.
Since O.G. has had such a significant positive impact on the net rating of the Knicks, the Raptors will have to make sure they’re capitalizing on the minutes he’s not on the floor. New York is outscored by over 20 points without him, and to build a lead (or maybe even keep up) it will be imperative for Toronto to be firing on all cylinders the moment O.G. goes to the bench. Staying in the game will be important, but what’s even more crucial is ensuring in the late stretches of the game that the Raptors step up decision-making.
One of the Raptors’ biggest weaknesses this season has been closing out late games, and it’s something the new guys will have to work on too. Clutch scoring reliably is not a skill that many players have, and if there’s gum in the whistle (especially if it’s only at one end of the floor), setting up winning plays that determine the game’s outcome can be a challenge, for young players even more than anyone else. Scottie has been undeniably the best in the clutch for the Raps this season, but if the game against Chicago was any indication, turnovers and shooting in the final frame need some work. A “win” for the Raptors tonight could also be for them to continue to work on late-game execution and making some of those final shots.
Make sure you tune in to check in on all our former Raptors and also see how our new roster will take on the challenge of one of the better teams in the East.