Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 126-98 win over the New York Knicks.
One — Too easy: The Knicks are a joke. The roster is unbalanced, they have no system, nobody can shoot, and they refuse to defend. Almost every player is playing for their own numbers, and they show the level of effort and resistance that would be typical of a tanking team in April, except it’s only November. The Raptors played only one solid quarter and came away with a 28-point win.
Two — Superstar: Up until this season, Pascal Siakam’s entire career was defined by hustle. He outran and outworked everyone on the floor, and his offense came from leakouts and duck-ins. But now he’s sleepwalking his way to 30-point efforts without breaking a sweat. Siakam drilled five threes to overcome a slow start, and his night ended in three quarters to the tune of “MVP” chants. Granted, it’s only the Knicks, but Siakam already has more 30-point games in 17 games this season (7) than he did in all of last year (5).
Three — Bully: Siakam has also adopted an unmistakable alpha quality. A prime example of this was in the second quarter, when Siakam barrelled to the rim and didn’t get the foul call, and then lost his way on defense which ultimately forced him to foul. Siakam barked at the officials and pleaded for a review from Nick Nurse (who wisely declined after seeing that it was a clear foul on the jumbotron). So how did Siakam respond? He collected the rebound, sized up Julius Randle a second time, and pulled up for a 25-footer right in his face.
Four — Deception: Everything for the Raptors comes from their defense. Toronto trailed by eight after the first quarter because they were lazy and didn’t take the Knicks seriously. The game only turned when Nurse went to two of his patented looks — a triangle-and-two defense and the two-three zone — which threw the Knicks off their rhythm. Live-ball turnovers created easy baskets in transition, and the Raptors went into halftime with a 12-point lead.
Stan Van Gundy breaks down Nick Nurse’s innovative defenses. Raptors, by the way, are the No. 1 team in the league in opponent field goal percentage. pic.twitter.com/ZI6Fd088LE
— William Lou (@william_lou) November 26, 2019
Five — Flattery: The Knicks also played a fair amount of zone defense, especially with their second unit. David Fizdale even borrowed a page out of Nurse’s playbook by breaking out a box-and-one against the Raptors, but in classic Knicks fashion, they still conceded a wide-open layup to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. It’s one thing to throw a changeup, but the Knicks’ lack of execution made it more like a practice pitch in the middle of the plate.
Six — Spark: Terence Davis also continues to deliver a boost off the bench, as he finished with 15 points in 29 minutes or work. Davis remains lights out from deep — he’s shooting 44 percent on the season — and he consistently strikes the right balance between being aggressive with his offense while not necessarily chucking up shots that he can’t hit. Davis hit two layups, made two threes, and set up another pair of triples in his first shift to start the game.
Seven — Expanding: OG Anunoby set a career-high in rebounds and recorded the first double-double of his career. He remains the Raptors’ best man-to-man defender, which is why Nurse assigned Anunoby to check Randle while Siakam took an easier assignment. Anunoby also keeps stretching the limits of his game. In the third quarter, the Knicks tried to get away with hiding Frank Ntilikina on him, but Anunoby made a point of posting up and going at the smaller defender. He has the strength advantage against most wing players, and he’s a reliable-if-not-unorthodox finisher around the hoop. This is the most straightforward way for Anunoby to boost his scoring
Eight — Ragged: The only knock on Nurse for this game was that he tried to buy time with lineups in which none of Siakam, Marc Gasol, nor Fred VanVleet were on the floor. Just as it was against Philadelphia, those lineups struggled in large part because there was no organization in the offense. Davis isn’t quite ready to run the whole show (he’s much more effective attacking off the catch) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should not be the focal point of the offense. Nevertheless, if there was a game in which to experiment, this was it.
Nine — Promising: The desire was definitely there for R.J. Barrett in his homecoming. The Mississauga native took a team-high 17 shots, but could only get five to drop. Barrett’s game at the moment is too limited — his jumper isn’t reliable and he always wants to get to his left hand — but that’s expected for a 19-year-old. What’s good is that Barrett doesn’t back down from anyone, and that he is a plus ball-handler for a 6-foot-8 wing. The one player he could look to emulate is James Harden, a fellow bullyball lefty that can score and create. But at the moment, Barrett bares more resemblance to a young DeMar DeRozan, which isn’t necessarily bad.
Ten — Arrival: Four Canadians appeared in tonight’s game. Barrett was joined by his teammate Iggy Brazdeikis, and he also shared laughs with Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett. Earlier in the day, Barrett committed to playing for Team Canada in the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament alongside Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Nurse, who coaches Canada on the international stage, was all smiles upon hearing the news.
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