Surging Toronto Raptors hoping to add to Knicks’ misery

The New York Knicks have two wins in 10 games while the Toronto Raptors are without a loss in their last five. The two will square off Friday night at Madison Square Garden, in a battle of division rivals.

The last time these two teams met, the New York Knicks pounced on the Toronto Raptors early and led 29-21 after 12 minutes. But the fun would quickly turn to anguish. Outscored 105-69 over the final three quarters, the Knicks fell 126-98 to the defending champions. Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto, with 31 points in the win, and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

A matchup with the Knicks might be just what Siakam (recently named a starter on the East’s all-star squad) needs considering the relative struggles he’s experienced since returning to Toronto’s lineup. Siakam missed 11 games with a groin injury.

He’s coming off a double-double performance (18/15) in his last outing, but an 8 for 23  performance from the field means Siakam’s showing, while effective, was not efficient.

Opposite the post-injury struggles of #43, Fred VanVleet hasn’t missed a beat in three games back following a five-game absence because of a hamstring injury. The Raptors’ guard is averaging 23 points and shooting 73 percent from beyond the arc since being re-inserted into Toronto’s starting lineup.

Against the Sixers, VanVleet nailed a trio of threes in the fourth quarter and finished with nine points to help his team put away their division rival for a 15th straight time at home. Not a typo…it’s been a minute since the 76ers won in Canada.

Facing a far less scary divisional test in the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors should win on Friday. They must, like all good teams, avoid playing down to the level of their competition in this one. No disrespect to the Knickerbockers, but they’re not in Toronto’s league at the present moment *not breaking news* – it’s gonna take something pretty weird for the dinos to fall in the Big Apple. And speaking of “weird” events, how ’bout Marc Gasol‘s scoring these days?

Gasol’s offensive efficiency a welcome addition

Marc Gasol took seven shots in the win over Philadelphia and made every single one. The big man is shooting 66 percent from the field over his last five games, far above Gasol’s pre-injury percentage (36). Since returning from a hamstring injury, Gasol has averaged 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game, a stat line far more resemblant of the Spaniard’s prime days as a member of the Grizzlies.

After the Toronto Raptors’ title win, rather than resting after what must have been an exhausting playoff run, Gasol played for country. Because of how much he played, and at his age to boot, it was not all that surprising to see him go down when he did; Gasol’s body had to be screaming at him following so much activity at the age of 36. Yet, as compromised as he looked before going down, Gasol has looked 10 years younger in his return. The veteran can always be relied upon to play sound defence (just ask Joel Embiid), but lately, Gasol’s offence has been what’s really stood out. The offensive efficiency on display from Pau’s little bro has been a pleasant development for Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors

Player to watch: OG Anunoby

Anunoby’s last three games: 0 points / 4 points / 2 points – 15% FG, 0% 3PT (0-5), 22 MPG

OG has been off the mark with his shot in recent games, though, he’s been a godsend on defence (as is tradition). Anunoby’s offence comes and goes, this we know, but his ability to defend multiple positions is an omnipresent force that rarely, if ever, shuts down.

It was against the Knicks where Anunoby picked up his first of four double-doubles on the season (13 points, 12 rebounds) – It would certainly do both team and player good if Anunoby could get going offensively, starting with Friday’s matchup with New York who ranks 24th in defensive rating (112.2). However, if his struggles persist into and beyond the matchup in Manhatten, head coach Nick Nurse, being the experimenter we know he is, might move Anunoby to the bench for a stretch of games to try and get the defensive-minded wing’s mind right.

Enjoy the game!