It was a battle between two struggling teams on Friday night as the Toronto Raptors outlasted the New York Knicks 90-87 at Scotiabank Arena.
The win improves the Raptors to 12-14 overall and 5-9 at home, and drops the Knicks back to an identical 12-14, tying Toronto for 11th in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors came out firing after their close loss to the Thunder, dominating the Knicks on the defensive end; holding them to just 14 points in the first. The Knicks came back in the second quarter through Obi Toppin and Julius Randle specifically, and cut the Raptors lead to 50-42 at the half. An evenly matched third and fourth saw the Raptors holding on to a narrow 1-point lead with 2 minutes to play, before the Knicks took the lead through Derrick Rose. A Gary Trent Jr. three put the Raptors back in the lead, and a missed game-winner from Randle sealed the Knicks fate.
Trent Jr. was the late-game-hero and leading scorer on Friday night with 24 points on 9/16 shooting, adding 3 steals as well. Scottie Barnes had himself a night, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Fred VanVleet struggled shooting the basketball yet again, but finished with 17 points and was crucial in his distribution, recording 11 assists for the double-double. Chris Boucher had a nice start in relief of the injured Birch and Achiuwa, finishing with 14 points and 8 rebounds in 28 minutes. Pascal Siakam recorded a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double, but shot an ugly 3/18 from the field. As it has been for much of the season, the bench was a near non-factor, scoring 10 points.
The Knicks struggled to find any sort of offence on Friday night, with the Canadian RJ Barrett shooting 5/16 from the floor and still leading the team with 19 points. Randle had a good night minus the last possession miss, finishing with a 13-point, 14-rebound double-double along with 5 assists. Toppin was a monster off the bench, going for 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes, while Derrick Rose contributed an important 11 points with the second unit.
Even with the Knicks struggling, the Raptors are going through it with injuries, making any win an impressive one at the moment. No Anunoby, Birch or Achiuwa have put the already-thin Raptors in trouble, but the defensive performances as of late have been an encouraging sign from a team that prioritizes that side of the ball.
The Raptors lost the rebounding battle 55-48, but held their own considering injuries and their season-long struggles on the glass. Every rebound was valuable in this one, especially late in the fourth when Barnes grabbed an offensive rebound that led to the Trent Jr. go-ahead three.
Off the court, a confirmed positive COVID case to Masai Ujiri this past week left many concerned that there could be an outbreak throughout the organization, but it thankfully seems as if that wasn’t the case, as no players have entered the leagues COVID protocols.
Though it hasn’t been the prettiest of starts, the 12-14 Raptors are only half-a-game out of the play-in tournament, as the Eastern Conference finds itself jammed with teams hovering around the .500 mark.
The Raptors will try and build momentum on Monday night when they welcome the Sacramento Kings to town, while the Knicks will go back home and host the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon.
Trent Jr. – 24 PTS 1 REB 1 AST
Barnes – 12 PTS 15 REB 3 AST
VanVleet – 17 PTS 6 REB 11 AST
Barrett – 19 PTS 6 REB 1 AST
Randle – 13 PTS 14 REB 5 AST
Toppin – 19 PTS 10 REB 1 AST