It’s good to go home. After a tough afternoon in Detroit on Sunday, the Raptors returned to action Monday night against the visiting New York Knicks, this time with Kyle Lowry back in the lineup and Kawhi Leonard sitting the second leg of a back-to-back for load management, once again.
This was a game where the talent differential between the Raptors and Knicks was clear the entire night, and the Raptors took full advantage of a Knicks team headed for another draft lottery at the end of the season. With Fred VanVleet taking Kawhi Leonard’s spot in the starting lineup, the Raptors used their abundance of playmaking in that group to create easy shots against a bad defense to open with a 38-point first quarter, hitting just about everything from the field, led by VanVleet who had 8 points and 6 assists in the first while playing the entire quarter. Fred, who recently returned from missing more than a month with an injury himself, has slid right back into the lineup and looked comfortable in both of his first two games back, and the chemistry with Marc Gasol was clear again in this game.
In the second quarter, it was OG Anunoby leading the way with 10, guarding DeAndre Jordan for stretches and holding his own as well, with two blocked shots, as the Raptors went to half-time up 19.
However, the third quarter would be when the Raptors really took control, with Pascal Siakam pouring in 13 points on 6-8 shooting as the Raptors stretched the lead to as much as 35 and the game seemed clearly at hand. The most significant moment of that frame, however, came when Knicks rookie Mitchell Robinson pulled Kyle Lowry down awkwardly following a Raptors defensive rebound, as Lowry looked to turn his ankle on the way down and had to be helped to the locker room.
With the Raptors having struggled all season to field a healthy roster, it finally looked like they might be getting there at this point, with Leonard the only player out for this game, and that being for prevention. Lowry after the game indicated that he didn’t think it was serious, but still, Lowry probably figures to miss some games coming up with this injury, and that means yet more time where the Raptors don’t get to see their intended playoff rotation with the postseason looming.
Still, despite the injury, there were a lot of positives to take from this game for the Raptors. The ball movement was impeccable for the team, and they kept their foot on the gas despite establishing a large lead against a weaker opponent, not playing down to their opponent as they’ve done at times this season. As well, Jeremy Lin had his best outing as a Raptor, contributing 20 points on an efficient 7-11 shooting night, and it would be helpful for the Raptors if he can be a positive contributor going forward.