Records: Raptors (0-3), Knicks (2-2)
Where to watch
Date: Thursday, Dec. 31
Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet (Canada), MSG and NBA League Pass (USA)
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
The desperation is setting in for the Toronto Raptors, who, after dropping their first three games of the 2020-21 season, are off to their worst start in 15 years.
“We don’t have time to waste no more,” six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry said after the Raptors’ most recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. “We’re 0-3 and we need a win really, really, really bad, and I feel like we’re getting that point where it’s a must-win. We’ve gotta do everything we possibly can to win the next game.”
Next up for Toronto? The New York Knicks.
In years past, New York being next on the schedule could be looked at as some type of relief – Toronto has won eight straight over their divisional foe, after all. But this Knicks team is much different than the Knicks of years past and early returns suggest this Raptors team is much different, too.
New York enters Tampa with a 2-2 record as it comes off a blowout over the Milwaukee Bucks and an impressive road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had won their first three games to open the season.
Through four games, the Knicks have been led by Julius Randle, who is averaging 24.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists after recording a triple-double in the win over the Cavs. Veteran reserve Alec Burks has provided a scoring punch off the bench with 20.7 points per game and Canadian RJ Barrett has had big moments in the first four games.
The 20-year-old Barrett is the face of a youth movement that will usher in the next era of Knicks basketball.
Toronto, a team that Lowry says is “experiencing growing pains,” is looking to bounce back after a late-game collapse resulted in a loss to the Sixers. In each of the Raptors’ three losses, they have held a double-digit lead, making them the first team in the last 20 years to lose each of its three games after holding such leads.
Facing an 0-4 hole, the Raptors will look to build – and hold on to – a big lead with the Knicks in town.
3 Things to Watch
1. Julius Randle vs. Pascal Siakam
As mentioned above, Randle is on a tear to open the season while Siakam has had his share of struggles.
You should expect the two forwards – one All-Star and one with All-Star aspirations – to battle early and often throughout this game. In two games against the Raptors last season, Randle posted averages of 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while Siakam averaged 27.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in the series.
Can Randle keep up his play from his hot start? Will Siakam figure things out against a team he saw success against last season?
2. The young Knicks
Randle and Burks are leading the offence as scorers but a group of young Knicks led by Barrett have the capability to be difference makers on both ends of the floor.
While Barrett looks to fill it up against his hometown team, Mitchell Robinson has the ability to make things difficult on the defensive end as a rim protector. Third-year Kevin Knox has also had some moments off the bench in New York’s two wins.
We’re unlikely to see rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin but these are names to get familiar with as Raptors fans will see them for years to come.
3. Can the Raptors get to the line?
Simply put, Toronto needs to get to the charity stripe more.
Through three games, the Raptors have attempted a total of 41 free throws while their opponents have taken 69. That’s … quite the difference. Part of Toronto attempting a league-worst 13.7 free throws per game is related to its attempting a league-high 44.0 3s per game.
If the Raptors can get some more penetration and more interior looks, the free throw attempts are sure to follow.
• Patrick McCaw (Left Knee Surgery Rehabilitation) – Out
• Frank Ntilikina (Sprained Right Knee) – Out
• Dennis Smith Jr. (Left Quad) – Out
• Omari Spellman (Right Knee) – Out
• Obi Toppin (Right Calf) – Out
• Alec Burks (Sprained Left Ankle) – Questionable
• Immanuel Quickley (Sore Left Hip) – Questionable
• Austin Rivers (Sore Groin) – Questionable
• Kevin Knox II (Sore Left Knee) – Probable
• Toronto has won eight straight and 19 of its last 22 games with New York.
• The Knicks’ last win over the Raptors came on Nov. 22, 2017, when Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 38 points.
• The Raptors are off to their worst start since the 2005-06 season when they lost their first nine games of the year.
• Toronto attempts a league-worst 13.7 free throws per game while New York is averaging 23.5 free throw attempts through four games.
• The Knicks’ roster is completely comprised of players under the age of 30, with 11 players aged 25 or younger.
• Knicks forwards RJ Barrett (Toronto, ON) and Ignas Brazdeikis (Oakville, ON) both hail from Canada.
Last Time They Played
Date: Jan. 24, 2020
Score: Toronto Raptors 118, New York Knicks 112
Raptors: Kyle Lowry – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists
Knicks: Julius Randle – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists
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