The Toronto Raptors, in danger of slipping into their nasty habit of playing down to their opponent, nearly gave away a victory last night. However, the New York Knicks folded in the fourth quarter, scoring a risible 12 points. The Raps offense, on life support early, returned to full health with a 29-point Q4, more than enough to secure another come-from-behind road win.
In need of a quick start to shake off the Christmas rust, the Raps didn’t get one. Instead, they played like they were locked out of the house during the recent ice storm. Slow-footed and clumsy, the Raps turned over the ball at an alarming rate. New York wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard either, but were getting enough from Andrea Bargnani (rats!) to nudge ahead. Even the Raps’ normally reliable free-throw shooting wasn’t, as they managed only 8 of 13. The Raps scraped together 40 points in the first half, and even managed to grab a momentary lead late in Q2. The Knicks went on a 13-3 run to go into intermission up 9.
J.R. Smith, who’s been roasted in the press lately, rediscovered his shot. He made 3 of 4 tries from distance, and ended the half with 11 points. Bargnani was always a decent one-on-one defender in Toronto (though dismal as a helper), and showed his skill with 2 blocked shots.
The Raps were sloppy to open the second half, and a 3-ball by Tim Hardaway Jr. (why the Knicks don’t make this guy a starter is beyond me – they got a donut from Iman Shumpert) pushed the home team’s lead to 12. Cue the comeback, as Terrence Ross hit a 3 of his own. The Raps managed to whittle the margin to five, as the Knicks’ shooting was off. That trend continued in Q4, with the visitors taking the lead on a welcome 3-ball by John Salmons. DeMar DeRozan, solid all night, then blocked Hardaway’s layup at the rim, and eventually hit a short jumper to give the Raps some breathing room. The threadbare Knicks attack never threatened to regain the lead, and resorted to fouling, which the Raps were happy to take advantage of.
Jonas Valanciunas was a force all night, grabbing 18 rebounds and scoring 16 points. DD needed only 13 shots to score a game-high 25 points. The second unit’s fine defensive play was somewhat obscured by their shabby shooting. Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Tyler Hansbrough combined were 2 of 15. Those of you who are expecting Vasquez to render Kyle Lowry’s services redundant may be waiting a while. Kyle enjoyed another strong game, with 15 points and 11 assists.
For New York, Bargnani had a double-double, and Smith scored 17. Beno Udrih, the starting point guard, chipped in 15 points, 10 assists and 4 steals. Other than Hardaway, the rest of the Knicks might as well have stayed in the dressing room.
Both teams flew to Toronto last night, where they will renew acquaintances at the Air Canada Centre.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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