Raptors: 1 stud and 1 dud from chaotic, low-scoring win vs. Knicks

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors had a tall task ahead of them in a rivalry game against the New York Knicks. Not only would Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam have to rebound from a tough home loss to Oklahoma City, but they would have to do so with several rotation players missing. Dalano Banton, Yuta Watanabe, and the bench needed to step up.

In addition to the continued absence of OG Anunoby due to his hip ailment, Khem Birch remains out due to his knee issue. Precious Achiuwa missed his second game in a row due to knee troubles. After torching the Knicks at the onset of the game leading by 17 at the end of the first quarter, Toronto looked ready to dominate.

After a frankly putrid third quarter that allowed the Knicks to get right back into the game, Toronto once again found themselves locked into a low-scoring battle of wills. While the Raptors nearly handed New York a win several times over, they were able to lock in during the fourth quarter.

Toronto pulled out a 90-87 victory, giving them their second win against Tom Thibodeau this season. While some players didn’t put on a great showing after nearly giving the game away, there were plenty of sensational showings from the starters that helped Toronto snag a much-needed home win.

81. Final. 87. 27. 90

Fred VanVleet once again carried the Toronto Raptors.

While Scottie Barnes had a very involved night all over the court and Gary Trent Jr. was able to put forth a quality offensive night with his shooting, VanVleet was once again the straw that stirred the Toronto drink in this game. The drop in quality when VanVleet left the floor was staggering.

VanVleet recorded 17 points while totaling six rebounds and picking up a double-double with his 11 assists. The Raptors were getting pummeled as soon as he left the floor, but Wichita State’s finest was able to restore order and guide them to a late win when he returned.

The bench mustered just 10 total points in this game, and the two young backup point guards that were supposed to spell VanVleet in this game only combined for one singular point. VanVleet was running the backcourt show by himself once again, and it was just enough to help Toronto pull off the win.

This method of winning games may not be very sustainable, as VanVleet is being asked to play a ton of minutes. However, if this is what it takes to pick up wins against divisional rivals, Nick Nurse may have to go back to this strategy again.

Dalano Banton didn’t have his best game for the Toronto Raptors.

We’re big fans of Banton and his potential for beyond this season, but his rookie growing pains have been put in the spotlight on a Raptors team lacking in depth. Banton is still showing the energy that has made him a fan favorite, but his offensive regression has been tough.

Banton was a -17 in just seven minutes tonight, most of which came during that terrible second-quarter in which Toronto completely bungled their double-digit advantage. Banton has been a -52 in his last 171 minutes, and he has scored more than two points in a game just once since November 26 after being held scoreless tonight.

Banton has been dominating with Raptors 905 in the G League whenever he gets assigned, and he may need some extended time in Mississauga. After being shuttled back and forth between the two stops, Banton appears to have hit a rookie wall, and he could need some time in the G League to get his confidence back.

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