Gameday: Raptors @ Knicks, January 16

Pascal Siakam returns to the scene of his career-best performance on MLK day.

It feels like this has been said numerous times over the last month, but the Raptors are truly embarking on a critical stretch that will determine what course of action the front office takes when the trade deadline arrives.

Rumour season is in full swing.

Before then, Toronto plays 10 of its next 12 games on the road, including a seven game road trip to wrap up January. That isn’t exactly comforting factoring in the Raptors 5-13 record from Scotiabank Arena this season. Or maybe it is? Depends on if you want the Raps to compete or tank.

It begins with the first leg of a back to back in New York, before heading to Milwaukee on Tuesday. Buckle up!

Raptors scope (19-24, 11th in East | Offensive rating: 14th | Defensive rating: 16th)

The last time Pascal Siakam was at MSG, he put together a masterpiece career-high 52 point game. Tom Thibodeau’s defence responded by sending extra defenders wherever Siakam went for the rematch in Toronto two weeks later, resulting in a 4-14 game for 18 points and five turnovers. Pascal has had a couple of tough games lately like Saturday vs the Hawks, mixed in with some great performances (35 points on 13 shots vs Charlotte). Overall he’s averaging 22.9 points in January, down from 28.3 in December.

On Siakam’s off games, Fred VanVleet would be one of the ideal guys to help pick up the slack. However FVV was brutal on both sides of the court against Atlanta, finishing the game with three points on 1-9 shooting and poor perimeter defence. His health has been questioned for a year now, so the update a day later came as no surprise.

Meanwhile Nick Nurse is done with effort questions right now, judging from yesterday.

Knicks scope (25-19, 6th in East | Offensive rating: 5th | Defensive rating: 10th)

The Knicks are one of five teams to have a top-10 offence and defence (76ers, Pelicans, Celtics, Nets). New York is trying to maintain its hold on a guaranteed playoff spot, coming off a win at Detroit on Sunday. The Knicks currently lead Miami by one game for the all-important six seed to avoid the play-in. Julius Randle had 42 points against the Pistons and was en fuego in the last meeting with five threes in the first quarter. However the real threat to pay attention to right now is Jalen Brunson.

Brunson is making as solid a case as anyone to be a first time all-star. Since the calendar turned to 2023, Brunson is averaging 33.3 points (52/50/81 splits) and six assists through seven games. To put that in perspective, Brunson only had seven 30-point games in his five year career before this stretch. He took on more responsibility when RJ Barrett missed six games with an ankle injury, including a career-high 44 points vs the Bucks. Even with Barrett back the last three games, Brunson has posted 34, 34 and 27 points while taking nearly 20 shots a game. He’s also the guy who nailed the Raptors coffin when Toronto was trying to make one of those wild “fake” comebacks in the last meeting. It will be tough but if the Knicks continue to win, Brunson just might earn that ticket to Utah next month (alongside Randle probably).

Game Info

Tip-Off: 3pm EST | TV: TSN 1/4/5 | Radio: TSN Radio 1050

Raptors Lineup

Otto Porter Jr. (toe) is out for the season. Fred VanVleet (back) is questionable. Dalano Banton and Ron Harper Jr. are with the Raptors 905.

*potential lineup if VanVleet plays*

PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn

SG: Gary Trent Jr.

SF: O.G. Anunoby, Juancho Hernangomez, Joe Wieskamp

PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young

C: Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko, Khem Birch

Knicks Lineup

Cam Reddish hasn’t played in the last 20 games (since Dec 3). The Knicks are looking to trade him.

PG: Jalen Brunson, Miles McBride, Derrick Rose, Ryan Arcidiacono

SG: Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Evan Fournier

SF: RJ Barrett, Svi Mykhailiuk, Cam Reddish

PF: Julius Randle, Obi Toppin, Jericho Sims

C: Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein

The Line

The early line had New York favoured by three points, down to 2.5. Over/Under is 218.

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