NEW YORK — This one came with one of those huge WARNING signs you see on cigarettes packages.
In sports parlance it was the consummate “trap” game.
The Raptors were coming off a huge wins over the Houston Rockets and another big overtime win on the road in Detroit an now had to play a team that is more interested in ping-pong balls and development than actual results this season in the New York Knicks.
On top of all that was the fact the game was being played at 1 p.m., which was actually a noon tip when you take into consideration the daylight savings time that was in play.
Dwane Casey, by his admission, spent a lot of time pointing all that out in the morning meeting before the game.
He needn’t have worried.
Tim Hardaway Jr. did the job for him with his mouth.
Hardaway and Kyle Lowry received double technicals with just under a minute to go in the second quarter. Hardaway kept talking after the tech and that brought Serge Ibaka, a man who does not put up with anything he deems disrespectful. Ibaka got a tech for his troubles.
At that point the Knicks were very much in the game but the damage had been done.
Over the next 25 minutes the Raps outscored the Knicks by 19 points to pull away for an easy 132-106 win.
“He did,” point guard Delon Wright said when asked if Hardaway got the Raptors’ back in it. “He was kind of talking. To me when guys are talking it kind of gets me going. He kind of woke everybody up.”
From that point on every time any of the Raptors got a bucket they were chirping right back at Hardaway, who had to be regretting his earlier bravado somewhere around the mid-point of the third quarter.
Chances are this one might have gone the way it did had Hardaway not uttered a word, but it’s not a coincidence that the moment Hardaway started to get lippy was the moment the Raptors focussed in and put this one away.
While centre Jonas Valanciunas led all Raptors scorers with 17, it was double-digit scoring from four of the five bench mob members (Pascal Siakam the fifth member of that group wound up with nine) that pushed this out of reach for the Raptors.
Overall, Toronto’s bench, the undisputed best bench in the NBA, outscored New York’s subs 69-29. The 69 points represents a season high for the Raps.
“Their bench comes in there and they have a nice clique going with the five of them out there,” Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “(Jakob) Poeltl does a nice job of protecting the basket and those other guys are flying. CJ Miles can shoot it. (Fred) VanVleet and (Delon) Wright , they both can get to the basket. You saw it today, the just broke us down. They drove by us and made plays. The can get stops wit that group and then offensively they attack it. Their bench is playing great for them and that’s probably why they’re a legitimate contender.”
The game was also another example of how ball movement, a point of emphasis since training camp, has reached a new level.
The Raptors had 32 assists on 47 made baskets. Numbers like that no longer surprise members of this team.
“I think it’s there,” DeRozan said of the goal to make constantly moving the ball for a better shot a habit. “It’s second nature for us now. We don’t even think about it. It’s nothing we try to force. We just go out there and play and take whatever a team gives us.”
DeRozan was asked about the potential for a letdown in a game like Sunday’s but brushed away even the thought of one.
“Honestly I know people say this, that, and the third about that, but for us we just want to hoop,” he said. “We just want to hoop man. Every time we get the opportunity to hoop, we are going out there doing what we know how to do and that’s just play. Whether it’s an early game or a late game or whatever it may be. Doesn’t matter who we are playing. We could be playing against five of you all (pointing to reporters). We are going to go out there and just hoop, honestly.”
The Raps next chance to hoop comes Tuesday when they take on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.
BENCH IS SOMETHING ELSE
The success of the Raptors’ bench knows no bounds.
Opposing coaches are gushing over it. The Toronto starters can’t say enough about it.
But there’s another offshoot of that success.
Those playing in that unit, when they do miss a game are in a real hurry to get back in.
Delon Wright is the latest to find himself in that situation. Wright came out midway through the win over Detroit and sat out the Houston game.
Even Saturday night at the team hotel, Wright says he was fully expecting not to play.
A pre-game workout, though, had him feeling significantly better, enough so to change his status from inactive to active.
“You miss out you lose your spot,” Wright said. “Can’t be missing no time. I was happy to get back out there and contribute.
“The other game (Detroit) I couldn’t do anything without limping,” Wright said. “Now I just have to get the flexibility back in it.”
The way he was driving to the rim and finishing (12 points and four assists), that flexibility is coming along nicely.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies