The Toronto Raptors were defeated at the Air Canada Centre last night by the New York Knicks in a game that had the potential to get away from them. The Knickerbockers looked better for much of the first half, but Dwane Casey made a few key adjustments that allowed the Raps not only to bounce back but also potentially win the game.
Carmelo Anthony was a beast early for New York. He parked himself down on the block where he scored and drew fouls in the first quarter. Toronto adjusted by sending hard double-teams at him, but their players were prepared for the strategy.
Every time Anthony was faced with additional help, he kicked the ball out and his teammates found the open man for an open 3-pointer.
[Also read: Reaction: Knicks 99, Raptors 94]
New York employed the same defensive philosophy on DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they weren’t as prepared for the tactic and the offense stagnated whenever one of their key perimeter players faced extra attention.
As the game unfolded, Casey eventually lost Gay in the second quarter due to back spasms. With Toronto’s top shot-creator incapacitated for the remainder of the game, the Raptors struggled a little with manufacturing good shots.
They settled for several contested jumpers and even missed a few open ones on their way to a 5-for-20 shooting performance in the second quarter.
New York on the other hand continuously created decent looks at the basket. Even in the instances where they failed on this front, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith converted a few contested jumpers, which resulted in a 50-37 lead at the half for the Knicks.
The Raptors came out in the second half armed with new strategy and a scorer almost as terrifying as Kobe Bryant: Alan Anderson.
Let’s not get too caught up in the comparison there. Anderson is not Kobe, but the third quarter certainly could have made one wonder. The former Spartan was simply unstoppable.
He went toe-to-toe with Melo and produced 20 points in the third period. He was perfect from downtown and overall from the field during the timeframe. His one blemish came at the stripe where he missed one of his six freebies in the quarter. His scoring outburst narrowed the gap and gave his team a fighting chance at pulling out a victory.
Toronto’s coaching staff got creative in the final period with their offensive concepts.
Casey’s game plan called for Kyle Lowry to run a pick-and-roll from the top of the floor with Jonas Valanciunas towards the right side of the court and share the ball with the perimeter player situated on the right wing.
This resulted in the Knicks occasionally losing the big man or simply switching on screens where Valanciunas easily posted up and scored.
Mike Woodson adjusted by sending additional help towards the paint. The Raptors countered by stationing DeRozan on the left wing, where Valanciunas promptly sprinted towards him to set a screen.
DeMar was then presented with the possibility of exploding off the screen and heading straight to the basket for a catch and score in the paint.
Toronto milked the play as much as possible and faced an 84-82 deficit with 6:04 left in the game.
From there, Melo just simply answered every Raptor run with a basket or by drawing a foul. In addition, the Knicks snatched two crushing offensive rebounds and ran down the shot clock on both occasions and produced backbreaking scores.
Alan Anderson was still heard from before game’s end. He put in another eight points in the final six minutes of the game and made the final score far more respectable.
The Raptors lost both Rudy Gay and the game last night. But the story of the contest was Alan Anderson’s ability to raise his game and nearly go point for point against an All-Star.