By ROBERT MACLEOD
Saturday, November 18, 2017
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors' plan heading into the game against the Knicks was to harass, harangue and generally try to make life miserable for Kristaps Porzingis, New York's monster centre.
In the game's early moments, Toronto's Pascal Siakam set the tone, sticking to the Knicks' 7-foot-3 behemoth like flypaper and forcing him into a turnover.
Soon after, Siakam teamed with Jonas Valanciunas to hound New York's leading scorer into an awkward miss before Lucas Nogueira later added a nice block.
At the other end of the court, the Raptors up-tempo offence was purring like a luxury sports car and the Knicks could do little more than stand back and admire the ride.
The end result was a 107-84 Toronto cakewalk over a rather listless Knicks outfit before another appreciative crowd at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
The Raptors (10-5) won their third NBA game in a row and eighth in a row over the Knicks (8-7).
The plan to contain Porzingis worked exceeding well as the centre, who went into the game averaging a team-high 28.9 points, was kept off the scoreboard until there was just over five minutes left in the second quarter. After missing his first six shots he drained a three pointer. He finished with 13 points.
The Raptors were led by their dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who both had 22 points.
Lowry, who appears to be hitting his offensive stride, added 10 helpers.
The Raptors were returning home following an uplifting three-game trip, which included impressive back-to-back wins against Houston and New Orleans.
The Raptors topped Houston 129113 and New Orleans 125-116, the first time in franchise history that Toronto has scored at least 125 points in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But while the offence is clicking, the team's defence is more of a concern for coach Dwane Casey. In seven of Toronto's previous eight games opponents have scored 100 points or more.
"The defence has slid a little bit," is how the coach phrased it.
The team is also distressed with the injury to Delon Wright, its 6-foot-5 guard who has excelled on the Raptors second unit this season, averaging 7.6 points while logging just under 21 minutes a game.
Wright dislocated his right shoulder against New Orleans on Wednesday and there is no timetable for his return. It's the same shoulder he had surgery on in August of 2016.
And Toronto's backcourt depth took another hit when Casey said before the game that guard Norman Powell, who has been bothered by a hip injury, would not be suiting up, along with starting power forward Serge Ibaka, who had a swollen knee.
Siakam replaced Ibaka in the starting lineup.
Toronto guard Fred VanVleet predicted earlier on Friday it would take a group effort to try to contain Porzingis. Even getting a hand up in the face of the mobile big man is a challenge. "I'd probably have to stand on a couple of chairs or something," said the six-foot VanVleet.
As promised, the Raptors threw everyone at New York's most dangerous offensive threat with Siakam, Valanciunas, Nogueira and C.J. Miles all taking runs at guarding him in the opening frame. And Porzingis was rendered practically mute by the hounding, going 0-for-6 from the floor as the Raptors raced in front 3018. Toronto played tenacious defence overall as the Knicks were held to a paltry 23.1 per cent (6-for-26) from the floor.
The rout continued into the second quarter where Lowry continued a strong offensive showing, knocking down a three to increase Toronto's lead to 42-23. The Knicks were horrid, unable to compete against Toronto's defence and were only able to connect on seven of their first 36 shots.
The Raptors romped to a 54-36 lead by the half.
The Knicks made a run in the third quarter, and a Lance Thomas three cut the Toronto lead to 72-60. The Raptors led 78-64 heading into the final frame.
In the fourth, a short jumper by the Knicks' Michael Beasley whittled the Toronto lead to 82-72 with just under nine to go. But with DeRozan and Lawrie back on the floor together, the universe once again righted itself and a three by C.J. Miles with just over five to go had moved Toronto back in front by a more palatable 19.
Raptors forward Pascal Siakam grabs a rebound against the Knicks at the Air Canada Centre Friday night.
JOHN E. SOKOLOWSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS