Toronto and New York have battled a handful of times already this season and every game was a dramatic, action packed performance and yesterday was no different. This game had everything, clutch shooting, poster dunks, in game duels, and some great defense. These are the kind of wins that have eluded Toronto all season long and it’s extremely encouraging that they could pull this one out.
Fred VanVleet was the star of the night and it was due to in large part his scoring that Toronto was in position to win this game. Coming into this game Fred was questionable with a lower back injury but watching this game you wouldn’t have ever known that. Fred was really taking advantage of the Brunson matchup as he hit countless jumpers over him along with others. Fred also was finding his way to the line as he took and made 8 free throws. It was really the tough jumpers that he made that kept Toronto in it though, he was hitting contested snatchbacks, step backs, 30 foot bombs, and he also did some damage off the ball with his shooting which is what has plagued him this year. Multiple times he was able to fill a lane correctly in transition for an easy kickout and he also flared out after setting screens to free himself up as well. Fred’s passing was also extremely impactful and he was finding his teammates all over the floor, his drives opened up so much at pivotal points in the game. Late in the fourth the Knicks were up by 5 and he hit a deep three and a pull up two to tie the game. Fred hasn’t always been on this season but when he has been it’s been magnificent to see, his defense wasn’t the best but he was still able to have a huge positive impact on the game nonetheless.
Pascal Siakam recorded a statline of 20 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists and this game was one of the rare instances where his scoring wasn’t the most impactful thing he offered in the game. Pascal really picked apart this Knicks defense and it was his playmaking that led to a lot of great looks from three. Pascal also played out of his mind on defense along with OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa. They were able to stifle both Brunson and Randle with some elite help defense at the rim and even in isolation situations. The Raptors point-of-attack defense was not good yesterday so it was up to Pascal and OG most of the time to cleanup any mess the backcourt made and they did a really great job of that. They were able to hold Randle and Brunson to a combined 5-21 from the field in the second half and it was this defensive effort that gave Toronto the opportunity to squeak out this win.
Scottie Barnes continued his stellar play yesterday and it wasn’t in the same way that he had been doing it in the previous couple games, Scottie was looking to score from the opening tip and he was using his strength extremely effectively against any matchup the Knicks threw at him. He also played very well out of the dunker’s spot and he just showed an understanding of the subtle movements necessary to make yourself available in that spot. His rebounding was also huge because it came at a lot of key moments when the Raptors really needed them and it led to plenty of second chance point opportunities.
This win did not come without a couple confusing, and frustrating moments that were heart attack inducing. Fred VanVleet sending Brunson to the line during a tie game after seemingly not knowing the score, Scottie Barnes forcing a left hand dominant player towards his left hand and giving up a game tying dunk after missing two free throws in a row, just some of the wild things that happened in this game, but you erase all of that with a win which the Raptors did.