Morning Coffee – Sat, Jan 25

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Knicks gonna…

Raptors use a group effort to get past Knicks for sixth straight win | The Star

Pascal Siakam, a day after being named an NBA all-star starter for the first time, drilled a clutch three-pointer in the dying seconds to complete a 23-point evening. Kyle Lowry had 26 points, Norm Powell and Fred VanVleet both had 16 and Serge Ibaka 14.

“I think we’re making the reads where they are, and we’re taking what’s there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “There usually is one or two guys that are going to be consistently up in numbers, and some nights you know Serge is a little freer and gets a few more, or Marc (Gasol) is a little freer or whatever. But it’s been nice to see all these guys going 15, 16, 18 points, a bunch of guys each night. It’s good.”

After watching a double-digit lead dwindle to one with a little more than a minute left, the Raptors got some near perfect late-game execution to win.

Siakam easily drove around the Knicks defence for a dunk that put Toronto up by five and, after a Raptors steal, Lowry split a pair of free throws. Siakam then drilled a three-pointer for a six-point lead with about 15 seconds remaining. The Raptors got a steal on the ensuing possession and Lowry iced the game from the foul line.

“At that moment of the game, I know I’m asked to be that person and I’m comfortable with doing that,” Siakam said. “I just have to continue to play. Last game, all the shots didn’t go in and then this game a few went in. I just have to be myself and trust the work that I put in.”

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Pascal Siakam shakes off mini-slump against Knicks: ‘I’m excited about it, getting back to being who I am’ – The Athletic

“It takes time, man,” Kyle Lowry said after the 118-112 victory against the Knicks. “It takes time to get a rhythm back. He was out a month, and it takes time to get it going again and once he got going, he’s a pretty good player. He’s an All-Star starter.”

Those expectations, while foisted on Siakam by his own remarkable success, were never entirely fair. Not only was he trying to find his rhythm after weeks on the shelf, but he was also resuming the process of growing into a No. 1 scorer. That came seamlessly to start the season, as it had in glimpses when he flirted with such responsibility on nights Kawhi Leonard sat in 2018-19. Before the injury, Siakam had worked through a mini-slump and was resoundingly rounding out of it when he “stretched” his groin — he’d gone from a five-game run of averaging 20 points on just 47.2 percent true shooting to another in which he’d averaged 27 on 55.3.

Some push-and-pull, up-and-down should have been expected all season as he learned and grew with a dramatic increase in usage on his shoulders, and a moderate-term injury complicated that further. He’d averaged 16.3 points on 50.8 percent true shooting in six games since returning, fighting through extended bouts of passivity and settling. It was a point of emphasis for Siakam and the Raptors coming out of a quality win against Philadelphia and headed into another softer stretch of the schedule where, while nothing is guaranteed, there’s certainly some room to figure things out.

“I think I always say, ‘You’ve always got to go to your bread and butter,’ and his bread and butter, to me, is his energy,” Nick Nurse said. “He runs the floor, he plays on the catch, he’s at the front of the rim quickly. Make sure you don’t forget about that kind of stuff. We are getting into some situations where now, I’ve said lately, he’s changed his tempo a little bit. He’s getting the ball and he’s seeing three or four defenders in front of him, and you do have to survey that a little bit. You start bouncing it and you’ve got your head turned, and there are a lot of different scenarios that he’s trying to work his way through and kind of lock those in mentally, (so) that he can take advantage. Take what’s there, but also, if they’re sending two, three defenders, you’ve got to find the right play. There’s still a lot of growth left there yet.”

10 things: Pascal Siakam shows why he’s an All-Star in win over Knicks

Three — Missing: Hopefully the All-Star nod also comes with some respect from the officials for Siakam, who only ended up at the line three times. On one play before halftime, Siakam went hard to the rim in transition and was slapped so hard across his arm that the sound ricocheted through the TV broadcast — and still there was no call. Out of the top-20 scorers in the NBA, Siakam ranks dead last in free-throw attempts (4.5 per game), which doesn’t add up. Siakam is always trying to attack inside and routinely faces contact, so why is he trailing behind the likes of Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell?

Four — Heart: The greatest thing about Kyle Lowry is that he cares. Arguably, you could say he cares too much because it’s really not worth sacrificing your body to dive for a loose ball in the first quarter of a Knicks game in January. But he does care and that passion from the captain trickles down to the rest of the team. If the soon-to-be six-time All-Star is hitting the deck, then you better fall in line. Lowry was hardly at his best tonight, but he willed his way to the free-throw line for 14 attempts and concocted a genius play on defense on the Knicks’ final possession: he sat on Julius Randle’s right hand on a post-entry pass, only to swipe it away when he came down with the ball.

Former Toronto Raptors centre Robert Archibald passes away at 39 – TSN.ca

Former Toronto Raptors centre Robert Archibald has passed away at the age of the 39.

The University of Illinois, where Archibald played collegiately, confirmed his passing on Friday afternoon with the cause of death unknown.

Archibald, who was born in Scotland, spent part of his final season in the NBA (2003-04) with the Raptors, averaging 1.0 points and 1.7 rebounds over 30 games with the club. Away from the Raptors, Archibald also played with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies over his two seasons in the NBA.

NBA Rumour Roundup: Could Raptors listen to offers on Ibaka, Gasol? – Sportsnet.ca

At this point it seems more likely that the Raptors wade through the trade deadline without causing much of a stir. But this is the NBA, after all, so it’s anyone’s guess how the chips will actually fall.

For what it’s worth, NBA insider Bobby Marks said regardless of the team’s situation, there are very few truly untouchable names in today’s game. So, you can bet Ujiri will at least listen.

“You’ve got maybe three or four guys (league-wide) who are untouchable. You know, like Steph Curry when healthy and even right now, Luka, guys like that. But I think anybody can be had at the right price, right?” Marks said Friday on Sportsnet 590’s Good Show. “If someone calls and makes a sweet offer for Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka and it doesn’t set you back and you can still be a top-three or four team in the Eastern Conference and maybe get to the Final, yeah, I think you’re going to consider it.

“I don’t think the players should be offended by that, because it’s almost a badge of honour that teams want you.”

Whether Ujiri opts to pull the trigger on any proposed deal in pursuit of a better chance at going back-to-back in 2020 remains to be seen. But to Marks’ point, every GM in the league will at least see what the options are.

“I don’t think Masai’s going to disconnect his phone the week of February 2nd and say, ‘I’m not taking calls’ — everybody’s taking calls,” Marks said. “Unless you were Golden State the last four or five years who basically were content with that roster. Everybody makes the calls now, and you kind of just get a feeling-out process as far as who’s out there.”

Siakam’s success just the latest in a chain reaction of successes for the Raptors | Toronto Sun

That’s six starter selections in a row for the Raptors beginning with Kyle Lowry in 2015 and 2016, followed by DeMar DeRozan in 2017 and 2018 and last season Kawhi Leonard before Siakam’s arrival Thursday.

Next up? Well, for starters Siakam could keep that streak going by himself for the next handful of years, but if not there’s more coming.

Fred VanVleet could still make it in this year as a reserve though the expected Lowry vote may work against him.

It’s similar to what happened last year with Siakam. He was right in the conversation but with Leonard already voted a starter and Lowry coming in as a coach’s pick on the reserves it was unlikely to have three players off the same time.

Siakam’s wait only lasted a season and he barged in through the front door this year as a selection by the fans, media and players.

There’s nothing to suggest VanVleet isn’t doing the same thing next season, assuming the Raptors do the right thing and bring him back. There’s a chance he could be making that all-star appearance for another team.

But even after VanVleet there’s rookie Terence Davis II in the hopper earning his stripes and building experience and players beyond him still making their names with the G-League 905s.

Lowry, Siakam lead Raptors past Knicks for 6th straight win – Sportsnet.ca

With All-Star players and big-game experience, the NBA champions have too many assets the Knicks simply lack.

“We’re just a team that, we are comfortable in every situation,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “We understand what to do and we’ve been here before.”

Lowry scored 26 points, Pascal Siakam had 23 and the Raptors beat the Knicks 118-112 on Friday night for their sixth straight victory.

A night after being voted to start the All-Star Game, Siakam had two big baskets down the stretch. He drove for a dunk with 1:09 left and Toronto leading by only one, then nailed a 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining after the Knicks had closed within three.

Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell each finished with 16 points for the Raptors, who beat the last-place Knicks for the eighth straight time.

“I think we’re battle-tested,” Siakam said. “We are a team that has guys that understand what it takes to win and when everything is not going right, don’t panic and continue to play.”

Marcus Morris and Damyean Dotson each scored 21 points for the Knicks, who have dropped five of six. Julius Randle had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Along with performers dressed in “Star Wars” costumes, fans were treated to music and sound effects from the science fiction franchise. In another unusual sound for Madison Square Garden, a loud “Let’s go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors!” broke out in the fourth quarter.

And as usual, the Raptors fans left happy. Toronto has won 16 of the last 18 meetings, including four straight in New York.

Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam lead Toronto Raptors past New York Knicks for sixth straight win – TSN.ca

Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell each finished with 16 points for the Raptors, who beat the last-place Knicks for the eighth straight time.

“I think we’re battle-tested,” Siakam said. “We are a team that has guys that understand what it takes to win and when everything is not going right, don’t panic and continue to play.”

Marcus Morris and Damyean Dotson each scored 21 points for the Knicks, who have dropped five of six. Julius Randle had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Along with performers dressed in “Star Wars” costumes, fans were treated to music and sound effects from the science fiction franchise. In another unusual sound for Madison Square Garden, a loud “Let’s go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors!” broke out in the fourth quarter.

And as usual, the Raptors fans left happy. Toronto has won 16 of the last 18 meetings, including four straight in New York.

But the Knicks made it tough, just as they did in recent losses to Philadelphia and the Lakers.

“Well, it’s tough because we competed the entire game,” Morris said. “Definitely tough to keep losing like that.”

New York had held its last three opponents to 100 points or fewer, but the Raptors have too much firepower to be held down too long. Even after a slow start, they weren’t far off the 124.2 points they averaged in the first five games of their winning streak.

Raptors eke one out in Gotham to extend winning streak to six | Toronto Sun

The formula Friday was to throw the energetic bench lineup at the Knicks, mix in some zone defence to break the Knicks’ rhythm and suddenly the Raptors were right back in a game they had been down by as many as 13.

Pascal Siakam, fresh off the news of his first all-star starting assignment, looked more like the pre-injury Siakam than the one who has slowly been working his way back into top game form.

His best moments were probably down the stretch, with the Knicks threatening to take this one away from Toronto. Siakam had a driving layup and a no-doubt three that put this one on ice.

“I don’t think I felt my best, but I had a little more push, running a little more in transition,” Siakam said. “Little things. On defence also, moving better, so I’m excited about it, getting back to being who I am. I’m not there 100%, just in terms of getting that little rust off, but I’m getting in the right direction. I keep doing that and the rest will follow.”

Lowry, who led the Raptors with 26 points, scoffed at the mere suggestion that Siakam isn’t quite what he was.

“Yeah, yeah, but it takes time, man,” Lowry said in defence of his starting power forward. “It takes time to get a rhythm back. He was out a month and it takes time to get it going again and once he got going he’s a pretty good player, he’s an all-star starter.”

Raptors 118, Knicks 112 – Scenes from Luke Skywalker missing the exhaust port shot – Posting and Toasting

So it was Star Wars night at the Garden for tonight’s Knicks game. As my headline suggests, it was a bit like if at the end of A New Hope, Luke Skywalker turned the targeting computer off to use the Force to destroy the Death Star and proceeded to miss by about 30 feet.

Because, you see, the Rebel Knicks Alliance or whatever was really close to pulling off a comeback, a la Luke and his buds in the first Star Wars film, but they managed to really screw it up royally down the stretch after coming within a point late, losing 118-112.

The Knicks got out big early, leading by as many as 13 in the first half. The Raptors would come back in the second quarter, though, and take a lead going into the half. The Knicks fought hard in the second half but went down by as many as 12, and ultimately couldn’t quite dig themselves out of the hole down the stretch.

A trio of players in the game — Damyean Dotson, Marcus Morris and Julius Randle — all scored 20-plus points. Dotson was the most exciting of the bunch, continuing his recent stretch of great play to the tune of 21 points on 7-10 shooting and 4-7 from three off the bench.

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