Oh, they had their chances getting back on even terms a handful of times and even took a five-point lead at one point, but gaining any separation from the Knicks just didn’t happen after that second quarter outburst by Anthony. But the Raptors can feel somewhat aggrieved this morning after officials admitted after the game and following video review that with 22.8 seconds remaining in the game and the Raptors down by one they failed to recognize Anthony stepping out of bounds right in front of the Raptors bench. Dwane Casey certainly recognized it as he went crazy asking for an explanation but never did get one. After the game crew chief Ed Malloy explained the play to a pool reporter. “When we came in we reviewed the play,” Malloy said. “We did see Anthony step out of bounds and should’ve awarded the ball to Toronto.” It’s of little consolation to the Raptors who are now 5-3 and on a three-game losing skid.
The game went into the fourth tied at 85-85 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800 fans, but the Knicks held the lead for most of the final frame and were up by five with a minute to play. A last gasp from Toronto saw Valanciunas score on a layup and James Johnson hit two free throws to make it a one-point game with 26 seconds left. DeRozan missed on a layup with six seconds left that would have tied the game, and Thomas had a pair of free throws for the Knicks that sealed Toronto’s fate.
Every Knick win is significant because the last remaining asset from the deal struck in the summer of 2013 is an unprotected first-round draft pick that the Raptors will get in 2016. It belongs to the Knicks but the Denver Nuggets have the right to swap their pick with the Knicks if the Knicks’ pick is more valuable. The Nuggets got the right as part of the Anthony deal struck by Ujiri when he was in Denver. Basketball is a small world. The pick is otherwise unprotected and potentially of untold value. At the time it didn’t seem like all that big a sacrifice for the Knicks. They were coming off a 54-win season in 2012-13, which is why they were interested in Bargnani in the first place. Meanwhile Denver was coming off a 57-win season. The lottery seemed distant. After Tuesday night imagine the ripple effect if whatever pick the Raptors get is decided by one Knicks win?
There were big things — a ref’s blown call — and many little things that factored into the loss. They’re missing Carroll, their talented stopper who draws those tough nightly assignments on the likes of Dwyane Wade and Anthony, who had a 17-point second quarter as part of his 25-point night. They’re also missing what Carroll does on offence, spreading the floor with his cutting and shooting ability. “It changes a lot. You take out a three-point shooter, a guy who can stretch the floor, a great defender and one of the best cutters on the team,” DeRozan continued. “You take that away and the dynamic of our offence changes.” The dynamic of the team will change more in the coming weeks, as the team announced in the fourth quarter that guard Terrence Ross is out with no timetable for return, having suffered ligament damage in a workout on Monday.
Although both Carroll and Ross have struggled with their jumpers early in the season – each shooting below 37 per cent from the field – they’re, historically, the team’s most accurate three-point marksmen. They are also two of Toronto’s best perimeter defenders, evident on Tuesday, when their absence was felt against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. James Johnson moved into the starting lineup and did a commendable job on Anthony, particularly in the second half. Without many viable and experienced options on his bench, Casey turned to the sparingly used Anthony Bennett to play out of position as the back-up three-man. Understandably, Bennett – a natural power forward – was a fish out of water defending a player of Anthony’s calibre. In just three minutes guarding the Knicks’ star, Anthony went off for 10 of his 17 second-quarter points. “It’s tough on him,” Casey said. “You’re asking a young man to do something he hasn’t done. It was a great experience for him. I thought he did a good job. Believe me, Carmelo does that to a lot of people and I thought he and James did as good a job as anybody on Carmelo.”
Carmelo Anthony appeared to travel and then step out of bounds after the Knicks inbounded the ball with 22.8 seconds on the clock and the Raptors trailing by a point. Neither was called and the Raptors were whistled for a foul on Lance Thomas who made two free throws to put the Knicks ahead by three with 17.2 seconds remaining on the clock. After the game, crew chief Ed Malloy told a pool reporter that the officiating crew did not see Anthony step out of bounds nor did they see him travel. “When we came in and we reviewed the play,” Malloy said. “We did see Anthony step out of bounds and should’ve awarded the ball to Toronto.”
The mere fact that Bennett was forced to play 8 second quarter minutes and 17 minutes altogether brought to light the problems this Raptors team will face on nights when key contributors like Carroll (and in tonight’s case, Terrence Ross, who will miss at least two weeks with a thumb injury) are unavailable. Without a deep pool of dependable veterans, Casey is forced to call on unproven young players and fringe rotation guys to handle important assignments. Toronto’s lack of a full-fledged rotation came back to bite them again in the late third and early fourth quarters. For a nearly seven minute stretch, Cory Joseph shared the floor with Bennett, Bismack Biyombo and a struggling Patrick Patterson. That span saw that foursome each play to a -8, and contributed to wasting an excellent effort by Toronto’s stars.
Casey gave the highest of praise for the 7-foot-3 Porzingis. The Dirk Nowtizki comparison has been around Porzingis since draft night, but Casey would know best: He was a Mavericks assistant from 2008-11 with the German 7-footer. “That kid is going to be a heck of a player,’’ Casey said before the Knicks’ 111-109 win. “He’s long — nowhere near Dirk yet. But he’s Dirk-like from his length, his range with his 3-point shot. He’s fearless and he’s long and a rebounder. He rebounds with his length. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in this league for a long time.’’ Porzingis’ rebounding is one of the greatest surprises through eight games, and Tuesday he had another of his signature putback dunks over three Raptors, including Luis Scola. Before his eight-point, six-rebound performance, Porzingis was averaging 12.3 and 8.6 rebounds, and if he continues to progress, Casey said he thinks the Knicks will be a legit playoff contender.
Derek Fisher let a slot machine manage his rotation tonight, throwing out apparently random fivesomes until he’d used every single active Knick for at least 5 minutes, and none but Melo more than 30. Jose Calderon replaced Jerian Grant when Grant committed a bad foul … then those two swapped back seconds later when *Calderon* committed a bad foul. Kyle O’Quinn was the first big off the bench, but played terribly … so Fisher played him alongside Kevin Seraphin, who also looked pretty bad, then played BOTH of those guys with Lou Amundson, who just looked happy to play basketball in 2015. Cleanthony Early checked in for the first time with 15 seconds left at the end of the third quarter … and banked in a heave that ended up being really, really important. Fisher went to Thomas instead of Kristaps Porzingis down the stretch … and Lance chipped in a huge lay-up, 4 clutch free throws, and a crucial rebound. I guess Fisher’s thinking was some combination of keeping minutes light in the first of a back-to-back, matching up with some funky Raptors lineups, and thinking it was still preseason. I did a lot of head-scratching, but the Knicks won, so joke’s on me, I guess.
Kyle Lowry started causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive end on the Knicks in the second quarter. Lowry ignited a 15-5 Toronto run to start the period, leading the way scoring ten during the run. Lowry also disrupted New York’s offense, stealing the ball three times in the second quarter alone. Lowry finished the game with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists.
DeRozan just threw the ball off Jonas Valanciunas’s leg for no reason.
Regardless of where you stand on the starting backcourt debate, it’s worth noting that Fisher made the right call with Lance Thomas on Tuesday. Fisher played Thomas for 22 minutes against Toronto, and Thomas responded with 17 points, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. And Fisher played Thomas for most of the fourth quarter over Porzingis. Thomas had a key layup with 1:33 to play — on a drive on Jonas Valanciunas that you should check out in the highlight above — that put the Knicks up 106-101.
About as average a grade that can be given to the Raptors on this night; struggled initially to facilitate shots, eventually finding their rhythm through early offence and running the floor. The Raptors shot ab abysmal near 30% from three, but an okay 44% from the field. What kept them afloat was 25 total assists, which was needed considering the absence of both DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross on the wings to spread the floor. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 29 points, and nine trips to the free-throw line, keeping the team afloat in the beginning with some significant drives to the basket; too bad he couldn’t get the reverse in the end. He made the right play, unfortunately he wasn’t rewarded.
The Raptors were returning home from a four game road trip that had begun with big wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, and concluded with two straight losses, the last one by 20 points to the Miami Heat. They had been held to 29 second-half points in Miami, their fewest since a 28-point half versus Indiana in 2012. The absent Carroll, suffering with plantar fasciitis, plays many key roles for the Raptors from shooting the three, to nabbing rebounds and defending the other team’s best player.
Much of the talk that’s surrounding the Sixers at the outset of the new season has revolved around the promise shown by Jahlil Okafor, the number three choice in the 2015 NBA Draft. Twenty years ago, in 1995, the organization also had the third overall selection, and used it on the Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, North Carolina’s Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse spent parts of three seasons here, before he was sent to the Detroit Pistons in a trade that netted the Sixers Aaron McKie, Theo Ratlif, and a 2003 first-round pick.
Need to know: How bad are things for the Sixers? They were drilled by Chicago on Monday night and are now 0-7 on the season, riding an overall 17-game losing streak that reaches back to last March . . . Toronto has won eight in a row over Philadelphia . . . The Raptors continue to list DeMarre Carroll as questionable with a sore heel . . . The Sixers average about 92 points per game, third lowest in the NBA . . . Top rookie Jahlil Okafor is off to good start for the Sixers, averaging about 20 points a game and shooting nearly 50 per cent from the field.
Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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