Raptors’ frontcourt dominates Knicks in first win of tournament

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Raptors 85, Knicks 73 (Boxscore)

The Toronto Raptors got their first win of the Summer League in an inspired performance, beating the New York Knicks 85-73 on Tuesday night at the Thomas and Mack Centre.

The starters brought far more energy to open the game following their lackluster outing the night before, racing out to an 11-4 lead courtesy of 10 early points from Chris Boucher. The duo of Malcolm Miller and newly-minted starter Adonis Thomas relished at the opportunity to guard R.J. Barrett, getting into him at every chance that they got.

“Early in the game I thought we came out with very good length and we were getting a bunch of deflections and just really making it tough on them to run their offence.,” said John Goodwillie. “Not giving them any easy gaps to the rim, that’s what we talked about pre-game.”

Toronto’s newfound tenacity was paired with the Knicks’ noticeable disinterest in running back after repeated careless turnovers. The Raptors continued to push the pace and it offered Malcolm Miller (17 points) and Chris Boucher (23 points) some much needed wide-open shots from deep.

I slandered the Raptors double-big lineup after underwhelming results in the opening two games, however Boucher and Dewan Hernandez showed up as the two best players on the floor in the first half. Boucher being able to knock down his outside shot finally opened up the paint which was a logjam in yesterday’s game. The pair combined for 26 points in the first half to give the Raptors a 47-34 lead at the break.

The Raptors continued to up the pace in the second half, racing off of every Knicks’ miss for a quick 13-5 run. Toronto were a step ahead on every loose ball and off-ball cut, eating at the rim once Mitchell Robinson checked out of the game. Jordan Loyd drove the team as he reclaimed his point guard role, finding Miller with a sweet left-handed bounce pass and then knocking down a three off of a hand-off. Miller then nailed a pair of threes to put the game to bed.

“We had to bounce back. We were really passive and reactive before, we wanted to be the attackers this game. We wanted to put the pressure on them, we wanted to make them feel uncomfortable and I feel we did a good job of that for four quarters,” said Miller.

The Raptors win is even more satisfying considering that the Knicks had three players on the floor that may start their regular season opener. Toronto will now close out their final non-elimination game against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET.

Player notes

  • Jordan Loyd: I’m still torn between if Loyd should be a point guard or more of a scoring guard. This should be taken as a compliment because he continues to excel in both spots. Today was the best I’ve seen him facilitate; I also particularly liked that Loyd sniffed blood in the water and ran mercilessly on the Knicks as they became lazy tracking back defensively.
  • Adonis Thomas: Introduced into the starting lineup specifically to guard Barrett, Thomas was very physical on the rookie. He doesn’t have great touch around the paint on a few of his cuts and often unnecessarily falls away on his jump shot.
  • Malcolm Miller: It was great to see Miller have some dog in him today, he was snarling at Knox on a ton of plays early and remained uber physical defensively. It was good sign that Miller’s energy didn’t dropped off after a few early misses and it paid dividends as he began to found his rhythm once the Knicks unraveled. It is a little concerning that Miller struggles to beat his defender off the dribble at this level, although that is not his calling card anyways.
  • Dewan Hernandez: Best game yet for the Raptors only draft pick this year. Hernandez is very strong on the boards and was often the first player hustling to the rim on either end of the floor. His touch around the rim as a roller is very smooth and played well off of Loyd. Hernandez’ face-up game is still very much a work in progress and he tried a few ‘interesting’ step-back jumpers as his confidence grew. It was also very pleasing to see him comfortably knock down a catch and shoot three.
  • Chris Boucher: This was definitely the most locked in Boucher has been all tournament. Maybe it was matching up against Mitchell Robinson or maybe it was seeing a few outside shots go down, but Boucher set the tone immediately for Toronto. Although Boucher has played predominantly been a centre for the Raptors, the type of performance he had today and the smaller frame he has may lean him towards a power forward position.
  • Bench: No big standouts off of the bench in this one. Darius Thompson was fun again in the minutes he received; he can handle the ball and has a tidy jumphot, I’d like to see more moving forward. Richard Solomon is a known commodity at this point, he worked his ass off again on the glass and can dominate as a rim runner at this level because his motor doesn’t stop running. Lindell Wigginton hasn’t pieced it all together just yet but he shows flashes of potential in each game. He has the body of a point guard, however he strictly adheres to the shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy. Corey Walden is lacking confidence in his jump-shot. Ironically, I thought he would be a shoot-first guy but continues to hesitate shooting the ball and has been surprisingly impressive as a savvy pick-and-roll passer. Jordon Varnado got his first real minutes and moved well off-ball to find soft spots in the defence.

Knicks updates (aka Canadian watch)

  • R.J. Barrett: I mean, it was better than his other performances so far at Summer League, but Barrett’s flaws are on display for the world to see. He refuses to use his right hand and puts his head down on drives which resulted in Barrett falling victim to a huge Hernandez block from the weakside. There were a couple of airballs but Barrett continued to attack the rim, finding a modicum of success in the second half. This isn’t to say Barrett will be a bust by any means but there are going to be significant growing pains throughout the year.
  • Ignas Brazdeikis: Came back down to earth following his scintillating 30-point performance in the previous game. Brazdeikis was quiet for long stretches of the game, but did show a bit of playmaking out of the pick-and-roll as a passer.

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