With the Raptors roster for the rest of the year set, some questions regarding the last 26 games linger: Can the Raptors show consistency in the half-court offence? Or: Can Gay find his way within the offence? Gay has certainly had his share of big moments in his first 10 games as a Raptor, including a pair of game winners. But he has also had to get up a lot of shots to get those points.
“Down the stretch, I thought Rudy just put us on his back and carried us,” said coach Dwane Casey after Toronto held off the New York Knicks in a 100-98 win that was as dramatic as any this season. Gay had 26 of his 32 points in the second half and made five crucial free throws in the final minute as Toronto won for the sixth time in its past seven games.
For This Win, We Can Thank Rudy Gay. He started 2 of 8, but exploded in the third quarter to give Toronto a solid lead. He then followed that up by knocking down big shots in the game’s final minutes after the Knicks had made a run to tie things up, and played terrific D on Carmelo Anthony to help the Raptors secure the 100 to 98 win. However this wasn’t Rudy alone. He got 18 from DeMar DeRozan, 15 from Kyle Lowry, and 16 Knicks turnovers to thank as well.
The Knicks offense wasn’t much better, dependent as it was on timely spurts from J.R. Smith and that seems like the right place to end that sentence. Despite connecting on 10 three-pointers – the Knicks were November-0 when hitting as many prior to tonight – New York’s offense never assumed a consistent flow, and many possessions ended accordingly, either in turnovers (16) or horrendous shots (thousands).
Mike Woodson spoke before the game about staying small because the Raptors play a small starting lineup, but the Knicks’ small sure looked a lot smaller than the Raptors’ small. In part because the guards just keep switching at even the suggestion– the mere rumor– of a screen, but also just because they Knicks are short, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay enjoyed many “contested” looks that were effectively open. Even when Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd closed out perfectly– and they did with some regularity– all those inches of height and arm length gave the Raptor swingmen all the room they needed to score.
While Gay’s heroics should be noted, let’s not forget that it was Kyle Lowry who put the Raptors ahead for good on a running hook shot with 28 seconds left on the clock. What I especially loved about the sequence was that after the shot, when the Knicks called timeout and Lowry ran back to the Raptors’ bench, John Lucas was setting up for a mid-air chest bump when Lowry made a “calm down” type motion with his hands and calmly walked back into the huddle. He knew the job wasn’t done yet and that it was too early to celebrate, something many players don’t seem to grasp in those moments.
With Tyson Chandler, a guy who has 13 inches on Lowry hounding him all the way to the basket, Lowry somehow got a shot up and over the Knicks centre and got it to fall with 28 seconds remaining in a tied game. And with the Knicks needing a three to tie the game and the seconds ticking down, it was Lowry who got up and into a red-hot Carmelo Anthony, denying the perennial all-star a clean shot at a potential tying three that would hit iron and fall into the waiting arms of Gay.
Looking back on the NBA trade deadline, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said the team really got its work done three weeks earlier with the acquisition of Rudy Gay. He categorized Thursday’s deal for point guard Sebastian Telfair as “insurance”, but said any serious interest by opposing teams in acquiring Andrea Bargnani never really had a chance.
Although JV led the game’s rebounders with 10, the Knicks badly outboarded our guys 42-31. Alan Anderson drove into multiple defenders time and again, leading to a 1-for-9 night. Andrea Bargnani recorded his second straight donut; he’s the Invisible Man on offense, receiving almost no passes. Rudy matched New York’s Carmelo Anthony with 32 points, while DeMar chipped in 18.
Alright… apparently the key match-up is Anthony and Fields… to be honest, I never expected the words “key” and “Fields” to appear together in that context. Maybe like in a sentence like “Landry Fields lost the key to the locker room, and therefore had to make a Play Station commercial to pay for a copy…”, but not key as a synonym for important.