The Toronto Raptors opened 2022 on a positive note, defeating the Knicks 120-105 in front of an empty Scotiabank Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The win marks the Raptors second straight victory since getting healthy from COVID protocols, and improves them to 16-17 on the season and 9-10 at home.
It was a back and forth start to this one, as both teams took time to get moving on the offensive end. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam built off their positive momentum from last time out and carried a bulk of Toronto’s offensive load, giving them a 30-27 lead after the first. A stingy defensive effort from the Raptors in the second saw them take an 11-point lead into the half, and they would extend it in the third. A 40-point outburst in the third quarter gave the Raptors a big cushion, and the depleted Knicks were unable to show any resistance defensively, to VanVleet in particular. With the game out of reach, the Knicks battled back in the fourth quarter to make the final score respectable, but still lost by 15 to fall to 17-20 on the year.
VanVleet was the catalyst for Toronto, scoring a season-high 35-points on 11/17 from the floor, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Siakam finished with an impressive double-double, scoring 20 points to go with 14 rebounds. OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes were effective as they slowly work back to game shape, scoring 14 and 13 points respectively. Canadian Chris Boucher continued his improved play as of late, leading the bench with 12 points on 4/7 shooting, to go with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
It was yet another offensive struggle for the shorthanded Knicks, who’s leading scorer on the afternoon was Evan Fournier with 20. Second year man Obi Toppin had a nice outing with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists over a grueling 45 minutes. Canadian RJ Barrett finished with 19 on 6/14 in his most recent Toronto homecoming. Quentin Grimes and Alec Burks were efficient both ways for the Knicks off the bench, scoring 13 and 11 respectively along with a combined 9 steals.
The Raptors are finally experiencing a wave of health, with their eight most used players all being available for the first time this season. Albeit against a depleted Knicks side, it was one of the most complete offensive performances of the year for the Raptors, and that bodes very well moving forward.
The Raptors bench was outscored 40-33 on the night, but 33 bench points is still a good mark compared to previous results. Coach Nick Nurse seemed more willing to spread around minutes, as the Raptors had five separate reserves with double figure minutes, and had four more check in when the score became out of reach.
The win moves the Raptors up to 10th place in the Eastern Conference, which is the final play-in tournament place. The standings are tightly bunched, leaving them only 2 games back of the 6th place 76ers.
The Raptors will enjoy Monday off before welcoming the San Antonio Spurs in on Tuesday in front of another closed crowd due to COVID restrictions, while the Knicks will travel home and take on the Indiana Pacers on the same night.
VanVleet – 35 PTS 5 REB 5 AST
Siakam – 20 PTS 14 REB 7 AST
Anunoby – 14 PTS 3 REB 1 AST
Toppin – 19 PTS 6 REB 6 AST
Barrett – 19 PTS 4 REB 3 AST
Fournier – 20 PTS 0 REB 0 AST