Norman Powell started well for the Raptors, scoring an early basket on a quick cut down the middle and finishing with a floater over a Knicks big. Its important for Powell to develop those off-ball skills, especially during a down season for his jumper; he cant maximize his talents as a fifth option who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. He played a solid, if unexceptional game, which is exactly the progress the Raptors want from him.
Its clear in Dwane Caseys eyes too, it seems, as Norm has played his three highest minute totals in these past three games since February 1st. And its surely Powells defensive efforts that have earned the trust back; even when hes not stopping his opponent (hi, James Harden) Powell is constantly fighting through screens, staying on his assignments hip, and doing what he can to make things difficult.
However, the Raptors starters proved ineffective early. DeMar DeRozan missed a jumper while trying to bait Hardaway into a foul on a free-throw line jumper. Kyle Lowry missed a 3 and turned the ball over looking for Jonas Valanciunas. Meanwhile Kornet launched 6 early field goal attempts, even connecting on a 3 to draw Valanciunas out of the paint.
Video: Toronto Raptors vs New York Knicks – Full Game Highlights | March 11, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18
Lowry connected with his center later, pump-faking a pass to Powell behind the arc (drawing a Knicks defender out of the paint), and then finding Valanciunas for an easy layup. Despite the occasional highlight for the Raptors, it was free throws that kept them in the game early. Valanciunas scored on 6 first quarter freebies (he would finish with a monstrous 9/10 from the line on the game in only 22 minutes).
I was, like many others, pleasantly surprised that Delon Wright was available; he looked to be a scratch but was a late addition to the lineup, and he played great. He used his crossover/Euro-step twice in the first half to create space for himself, had a spin move into a finger roll, and drained both 3-pointers he took. He kept it going in garbage time too, with a nice dish to Malcolm Miller for a dunk.
Valanciunas continued his early-quarter domination when Kyle OQuinn replaced Kornet as the Knicks pivot. The big Lithuanian dominated on cuts, dives, and post ups, bringing his scoring total to 10 before he left the game with 4:00 remaining in the frame. Despite that, the Raptors were unable to gain any separation in the first quarter, even with their typically strong end-of-quarter DeRozan+bench rotation. C.J. Miles was able to break the monotony by banking home a deeeep 3 to end the quarter, giving the Raps a 32-27 lead.
Some matinee cities are worse than others, of course; Toronto isnt known as White Vegas for nothing, after all, and of course New York is right on up there. Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan looked to be feeling the nightlife in their 9-for-30 shooting day. Even Kyle Lowry took the whole first half to get going, perhaps shaking off a night celebrating Villanovas victory on Saturday.
Video: Toronto Raptors vs. New York Knicks – March 11, 2018
Then the bench mob hit the floor. Poeltl displayed his budding on-court chemistry with Siakam, dishing an underhand scoop pass for a layup, which was followed by a Fred VanVleet 3 in semi-transition. Siakam finished a layup after cutting in the lane, and he then returned the favour to Poeltl, who finished with a push shot. The lead had bloomed to 9, and every Raptors basket in the frame was assisted; the bench mob is so fun and effective, its ridiculous.
Video: Serge Ibaka & Tim Hardaway Jr. Trash Talking & Double Technical | Raptors vs Knicks
Five Thoughts on Yesterday Afternoon: Raptors 132, Knicks 106
Lowry returned to the game to offer some vaunted triple point guard minutes, and Delon Wright responded with a fancy spinning, scooping layup. It was Wrights first game back after a toe injury, and his pivoting, juking, and slashing seemed just fine. When he penetrates deep into the paint, the bench offence can score in the half-court against anyone. When he lacks that first burst in changing direction, their half-court offence bogs down. Yesterday was a prime example of the former (and him shooting 2/2 from 3 in the game didnt hurt, either).
Some of it is lack of effort, and I think thats only a couple guys maybe, Jeff Hornacek said. But thats what happens: If you have one guy thats on the court and he doesnt do his job with full effort, its tough to get stops. You cant hide guys in this league. Its difficult. Theres a couple guys that need to pick it up. I wouldnt say a lot of guys. You wont hear it from me who the few are, which I know you guys want to ask. We saw it on tape. Those particular guys have to get better.
Tim Hardaway jr. was just about the only thing keeping New York in the game. He hit triples, finished and-1 in transition, and was able to keep a stagnant offence on the scoreboard. He finished with 25 in the game.
Thoughts on the Raptors, March Madness and more
Near the end of the second quarter, the Raptors offered some comedy by missed 6 shots (including several missed layups just from Ibaka) in one possession. Lots of rebounding, not much shot-making. It was a ho-hum minute. Malcolm Miller hit a 3 on the next possession to break the drought. Even though the Raptors were up 7, it felt like they were hardly playing. Lowry and Ibaka picked up a pair of technical, perhaps trying to lift their teams energy levels. Ibaka responded, blocking a Frankie Smokes layup into the crowd on the next defensive possession. Malcolm Miller needed no boost, hitting another, buzzer-beating, 3 to end the half.
Ibaka opened the second half with a made 3 – does he always play better after jawing at and/or shoving opponents? If so, Im glad 70% of the NBA players seemingly despise him. Powell hit his first 3 of the game – an encouraging sight after a few misses and even more passed-on looks – in transition on an open corner look. Its good to see him continue shooting. Valanciunas followed up that highlight with a fake handoff, spinning to his right and cramming over every Knick and the Empire State building as well.
The starters played deep into the third quarter, with a Valanciunas post-up over OQuinn pushing the lead to 89-75 with 4 minutes remaining. The Raptors slowly grew their lead, making Emmanuel Mudiay beat them (he rarely did) on offence, and letting their role players score the majority of their own points. The offence was fluid and pass-happy. DeRozan finished the game shooting 4/16, and it didnt matter! Another Siakam-Poeltl connection pushed the lead to 16 to end the quarter; those two dudes look for each other, and it shows.
The fourth quarter was entirely garbage time, though it was potentially the most fun time of the game (for Raps fans). The bench mob played to start the quarter, which is unfair and just a method to run the score up, even though the lineup is all-bench. The bench finished with 69 points. Siakam dished 6 assists, many of which came via advanced, ‘see ahead of the play’ vision. His playmaking has improved dramatically, which gives the Raptors an important weapon alongside their deadly backcourt.
In the final frame, Wright continued his patient, probing handles in the half-court. VanVleet continued his hot shooting from deep (the Raps finished 45.7% from range). Siakam finished in transition. Basically, the Raps just continued Raps-ing. But what made the 4th quarter so fun? Nigel Hayes – a recent call-up and 10-day contract signee for the Raps – got some time! He has been one of the leaders of the Westchester Knicks this season, who rival the 905 for supremacy in the East. That Hayes played against the New York Knicks is poetic, and boy did he play well.
Hayes finished with 6 points on two attempted shots (both made 3s) and even a few words directed at the Knicks bench after hitting a 3 directly in front of his would-be teammates. Im glad hes a Raptor and not a Knick. Hayes played within a lineup of Wright-Powell-Miller-Hayes-Nogueira, and they finished with a net rating of +18.0 in 5 minutes. Hayes was mobbed by his Raptors teammates, who cheered on his success like he was one of their own children.
The garbage Knicks couldnt find time for a player the caliber of Hayes – who was dominating for their G-League affiliate all season – only for him to succeed for the Raptors against those same trash Knicks? That just about tells the story of the game (and season, and general competence of the two franchises) right there.
Courtney Lee expressed frustration by the mistakes and lack of effort committed by some of the Knicks.