First they snoozed, then they cruised.
The Raptors shook off brutally slow starts to both the first and third quarters and Kawhi Leonard’s least impactful outing of the year to move to an NBA-best 12-1 with a 128-112 matinee win over the 4-9 New York Knicks on Saturday at Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto’s bright future was on full display, with 24-year-old forward Pascal Siakam going off for a career-high 23 points, including three made three-pointers and 21-year-old OG Anunoby chipping in with an additional 16 off of the bench, his third double-figure game in succession, the longest run of his career.
Toronto missed six straight shots to begin the game and continued the new tradition of spending the first quarter tossing the ball to the other team or the fans, but easily rallied to draw even. By the time the half ended, Toronto somehow was up to 59% shooting accuracy and held an 11-point edge. Leonard’s first field goal didn’t come until under a minute remained in the half and he had only six points through two and finished with 12 on only 2-of-7 shooting. Fellow all-star Kyle Lowry only attempted six shots and had 10 points and seven assists in 26 minutes.
Asked about the early turnover issues that have crept up in three straight games now, Lowry didn’t seem overly bothered.
“Just sloppy playing, a lack of concentration early,” Lowry told Postmedia after the game.
“It’s something we have to clean up and we will.” The bench was massive for the Raptors putting up 62 of the team’s points. Anunoby looked comfortable, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, Delon Wright 12.
“I think we have one of the deepest teams in the NBA,” Wright said.
“I think it was just a good day for us and sometimes you have to pick up the starters who are always picking up for us and play a team game.”
“They are a tough cover,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said of the Raptors.
“When they go to the bench, it just keeps coming at you — a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of shooting.”
Minus Kristaps Porzingis, New York plays hard and tries its best, but simply cannot compete with powerhouses like Toronto. The team only made six three-pointers on 27% accuracy. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 18 points in the first half to help his team hang around and finished with 27. Enes Kanter added 15 points and 15 rebounds off of the bench.
Toronto hosts Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
KNICK BOSS BIG ON RAPS
A pre-game query lobbed at Knicks coach Fizdale about the Jimmy Butler blockbuster trade quickly morphed into talk about Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors.
“This team that we’re playing tonight is so scary to watch on film that I haven’t even had time to process that (trade),” Fizdale said.
“I can’t think about that right now. I’ve got Kawhi Leonard and those guys, Kyle Lowry, sitting in that other locker room. I’m focused on that.”
Fizdale knows all about Leonard and Danny Green, having coached against them at two NBA Finals as Erik Spoelstra’s right-hand man in Miami and as the head guy in Memphis in another series that saw Leonard average 31.2 points.
“He’s just gotten better every year. He just keeps adding and adding,” Fizdale said.
“He really competes the right way. He’s a scary, scary dude. I still have bad dreams from the playoffs in Memphis. There’s nothing I can do against a guy like that.”
Green recalled the six-game win over Memphis as being extremely an extremely tough series against a well-coached group. Green joked that Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol gave the Spurs nightmares of their own.
Fizdale said the Raptors added “champions” to a group that already won 60 games and topped the East in the regular season. “You’ve got to count them in on having a shot to get there. Barring any injury or anything like that, this team is going to be in the mix. They are legitimate, they’re tough, they compete hard, they share the ball, they’re fast they’re athletic,” he said.
“They have all of the ingredients. It’s just a matter if they can keep it together and keep connecting.”
EAST GETS MORE INTERESTING
Butler, the 29-year-old four-time all-star went to Philadelphia in a deal centred around young forward Dario Saric, veteran swingman Robert Covington and a future second-round pick. The trade gives the Sixers an intriguing big three of Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Nurse said he wasn’t surprised to see the reeling Wolves finally find a new home for Butler.
“It certainly brings a really good player into our gym a few more times, so we look forward to that,” Nurse said, tongue in cheek. Two of Butler’s five highest-scoring career games came against the Raptors and he has long been a thorn in their sides at both ends.
All of a sudden the Eastern Conference has some solid squads.
“I think the East is a lot better than maybe people give it credit for,” Nurse said.
The take here is that if the Sixers can get three big personalities to co-exist well and share the spotlight and the ball the team will be in the mix to make the Finals, though it needs to find more shooters since it got worse shooting-wise in the deal. Then it will have to pay a lot of money to keep Butler around long-term and he has a ton of mileage and a long injury history on his resume. But it’s probably a risk worth taking.
For Minnesota, the team didn’t come close to recouping what it originally sent to Chicago for Butler, but at least he helped end that franchise’s long playoff drought last year and both Saric and Covington are solid players.
Lowry refused to weigh in on the deal, other than joking to Postmedia that Butler “can’t stay at my house.” Lowry, of course, hails from Philadelphia.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Raptors keep reminding us that this is the deepest team in franchise history. Case in point: Seven players took as many or more field goal attempts as Kawhi Leonard or Kyle Lowry and the team still cruised. Most teams don’t have players like Jonas Valanciunas, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby emerging from the second unit.
2. Pascal Siakam hit three three-pointers for the first time after going five games in a row without making a single shot from beyond the arc. He said afterward he’s just working on confidence, slowing things down, setting his feet and “letting them fly.”
3. Even when Leonard is off, he’s still hard to guard. He got to the free throw line 10 time, part of Toronto’s massive 40-22 free throw attempt edge. The Knicks simply couldn’t check the Raptors. Knicks coach David Fizdale said afterward part of that stems from referees not knowing who any of his largely young, unheralded players are. But it’s more than that. Toronto simply can draw fouls in large numbers.
4. Nick Nurse didn’t have to overextend himself for this one, but the result was the same, another win. With Toronto now 12-1 (including 7-0 at home), Nurse became the first head coach since Lawrence Frank (13-0 with New Jersey in 2004) to win at least 12 of his first 13 NBA games.
5. Does anyone else find it odd that Toronto has been winning 47+ games for years now and New York’s been losing 50+ annually, yet the Raptors boast a far more impressive crop of young players? Just asking.
Knicks not named Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 11-for-40 from the field in the first half.
AROUND THE RIM
Fizdale complimented Nick Nurse for getting a new group to gel so quickly, but conceded that having veterans and proven winners “helped fast-track it there.” … Green hit a bunch of three-pointers, including the 1,000th of his career. He’s the first Raptor to do that since Lowry in 2016. A proud Green joked that “it just shows I’ve been playing a long time.” Ray Allen hit a record 2,973, though Steph Curry is already nearing the 2,200 mark in less than half as many games.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies