22-6 is a pretty nice cushion to have before a daunting roadtrip.
The Toronto Raptors easily dispatched of the New York Knicks on Sunday, winning by a margin of 118-108.
If you look through the play-by-play, the Raptors never held an insurmountable lead, but the victory was all but secured after tip-off. The first quarter saw a hyper-aggressive Terrence Ross hoisting shots from the perimeter at will. Ross attempted seven shots on the quarter, sinking four and netted 10 early points to give the Raptors an eight-point advantage. It was evident that Ross had the green light, and with a hobbled and disinterested Carmelo Anthony covering on defense, Ross easily freed himself around screens for open looks.
The Raptors typically found Ross using his favorite set: the double-pin down. The play involves Ross running across the court around screens set by two bigs, before popping to the wing to catch and shoot. On the play below, Jonas Valanciunas clips Anthony, who is later wiped out by a flat screen set by Amir Johnson. The end result was an easy trey for the man they call Trey Rosay.
The Knicks did eventually pick up on the play, and tried to counter by making switches when Anthony lagged behind (which was often), but Ross had an answer to that, as well. On the play below, Ross pump fakes Quincy Acy before getting an open shot at the elbow. With the Knicks’ defense struggling to close out on perimeter shooters, the Raptors were able to take advantage both ways. They shot 5-of-12 from deep, and when faced with flying closeouts, players like Ross and Greivis Vasquez calmly stepped inside the arc for open jumpers.
The Knicks held even in the second quarter, capitalizing on some shoddy Raptors defense. A two-point guard lineup of Pablo Prigioni and Jose Calderon were rather successful in finding open shots from pick-and-roll action. Knowing that the Raptors prioritized guarding the 3-point line and the paint, the Knicks scrounged for whatever midrange looks they could. That includes midrange shots like this one from Jose Calderon, and the occasional pick-and-pop from Jason Smith. It was a result the Raptors were willing to live with and to New York’s credit, they took advantage. Toronto held a seven-point edge into halftime.
As is their wont, the Raptors made their push to bury the Knicks early in the third quarter. Kyle Lowry did a masterful job of facilitating the offense, and toyed with his former contemporary in Calderon like a puppet. Lowry potted four assists in the quarter and oversaw a 33-point frame. He repeatedly found his teammates on drives to the basket, and along with the help of James Johnson’s occasional slashes, the Raptors made a meal of the Knicks’ soft defensive underbelly.
New York’s defensive woes compounded after their only passable rim protector in Samuel Dalembert was ejected after elbowing Jonas Valanciunas. I only saw the play once, and it looked somewhat harmless, but the officiating crew saw fit to slap Dalembert with a flagrant-2. With Dalembert out of the game, forays to the Knicks’ basket only became more plentiful.
Toronto ended up winning the quarter by nine points, but it could have easily ballooned further had it not been for Anthony and Cole Aldrich’s offensive brilliance. Yes, the term “offensive brilliance” was used to describe Aldrich, who scored three baskets by simply rolling to the hoop after setting high screens. This doubles as a reminder of the wizardry of Calderon, who Raptors fans know and love as a pick-and-roll maestro. Anthony was Anthony, meaning he set up shop on the block and scored however he pleased. James Johnson and Patrick Patterson both took their turns checking Anthony, but they couldn’t match his combination of size, quickness and shooting ability. Lest, with Toronto’s offense flowing so well, Anthony’s scoring was tolerated.
The fourth quarter is when things got nutty. Both teams abandoned the noble idea of playing defense, and simply proceeded to swap baskets. Greivis Vasquez came alive, sinking a number of tough shots in the lane, while connecting on two late triples to secure the victory. The Knicks scored well, but they couldn’t quite close the gap despite what was an admirable offensive display.
With the game well in hand, the rowdy ACC crowd started to chant for Bruno Caboclo to come into the game. Their wishes were granted with just under two minutes left, as the Brazilian duo of Bruno and Bebe Nogueira checked in against the backdrop of a standing ovation. They then proceeded to miss all four of their shots, mostly of the wild and desperate variety, while guards Vasquez and Williams spurred them on, unashamedly trying to set them up for baskets. The Knicks looked rather pissed with the game being turned into a circus, but the fans loved it.
The win marked the Raptors’ sixth-consecutive victory, wrapping up a rather soft stretch in their schedule. The next six games, however, should be appreciably more difficult, as the Raptors will face Chicago on a back-to-back today, before setting out West for a gruesome five-game tour of the hellscape that is the Western Conference over the holidays and the New Year.