At this point, the Toronto Raptors are going to need a miracle.
Saturday afternoon’s game was always going to be tough for Toronto. The New York Knicks have been on a roll lately and have shockingly been one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams this season. At the same time, though, it marked one of Toronto’s few winnable games remaining on the schedule, and making matters worse, the Raptors actually looked very good for long stretches and had a lead late in the third quarter. But, as has become a trend this season, the Raptors couldn’t get any luck as the Knicks clinched a 120-103 victory in Madison Square Gardens.
Even with the Chicago Bulls struggling of late, squeaking into the play-in tournament was never going to be easy for Toronto. The Washington Wizards have surged ahead and the Raptors’ remaining schedule and that upcoming West Coast road trip have always loomed over any playoff optimism.
Saturday afternoon was a perfect encapsulation of this season for the Raptors. For the better part of the first three quarters, Toronto looked like a team that could compete with anyone. OG Anunoby was nailing 3-point shots at an impressive clip, Fred VanVleet orchestrated the pick-and-roll with ease, and Toronto’s defence was swarming and forcing turnovers. It just wasn’t meant to be for the Raptors in this cursed season.
“I thought we were playing pretty well. It’s just, every time I looked up we were down eight or 10,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We did a lot of good things but it was, what do they say? Make or miss tonight. They made a few more and we missed a few more.”
The Knicks simply wouldn’t miss in the first half, shooting 61% from the floor to go with 10-for-17 shooting from behind the arc. Julius Randle had his way with Toronto and maybe for the first time this season, he found success against Anunoby on the offensive end.
“If he’s making tough shots like that — he’s a talented player, a great player,” Anunoby said of Randle.
Randle led the way for New York with a game-high 31 points.
Much like Wednesday night when Toronto rolled out the Kyle Lowry, VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Anunoby, Khem Birch starting lineup for the first time, the Raptors couldn’t get anything from the bench. Gary Trent Jr. struggled for the second straight game off the bench and with Chris Boucher out with a knee injury, Toronto’s bench didn’t have much energy.
“It’s a tough thing to do when you come in the NBA, coming off the bench in limited minutes, especially these guys that have been playing a bunch of minutes over the last two weeks,” VanVleet said. “I have confidence that they’ll figure it out.”
Of course, like seemingly every game this season, the Raptors went on a run late. They cut a 16-point Knicks lead down to seven thanks to a clutch 3-pointer from Pascal Siakam, his fifth 3-pointer of the game to tie his season-high. But that was as close as Toronto would come.
With the loss, the Raptors fall 1.5 games back of the Wizards for the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Up Next: Cleveland Cavaliers
After a rest-filled week, the Raptors will be right back into the NBA grind on Monday when they start a back-to-back first against the Cleveland Cavaliers before the Brooklyn Nets come to town on Tuesday.