In losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, the New York Knicks took solace in making a rematch more competitive than the first meeting with one of the NBA’s best teams. New York will look to do more or better Friday, when they continue a three-game homestand by hosting the Toronto Raptors.
Both teams were off Thursday after playing Wednesday. The Knicks fell to the visiting Lakers 100-92, and the host Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 107-95.
The Knicks, who have the NBA’s third-worst record, held their last lead Wednesday early in the third quarter but never allowed the Western Conference-leading Lakers to run away. New York, which trailed by as many as 13 points, closed within six points in the final minute.
It was a far cry from 15 days earlier, when the Lakers cruised to a 117-87 win over the Knicks in Los Angeles.
“I think we went in and played good basketball,” Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller said Wednesday after New York fell to 8-15 under his tutelage. “We are not trying to play close games or anything like that, but we took a shot and came up a few points short.”
The Knicks fell far shorter than that against the Raptors on Nov. 27, when the defending NBA champions earned a 126-98 victory in Canada. The challenge isn’t likely to lessen Friday against a Toronto squad that has survived a flurry of injuries and appears to be rounding into form during a five-game winning streak.
On Wednesday, the Raptors had six players score between 16 and 22 points. Among that group were stalwarts Fred VanVleet (22 points), Pascal Siakam (18 points), Marc Gasol (17 points), Kyle Lowry (16 points) and Serge Ibaka (16 points), each of whom have missed at least 10 games this season due to injury.
“I think it’s a quirky thing that I have never seen before,” Nurse said of the Raptors’ uncommonly balanced scoring. “But it also tells you that we’re sending the ball to the open player. We’re not really going through the same guys. We’re moving it. We’re just finding the right reads, I think, a lot. And everybody’s getting their cracks at it.”
Unfortunately for the Raptors, their run of good health didn’t last long Wednesday. Guard Patrick McCaw took a blow to the face in the second quarter and left as blood gushed from his nose. He was diagnosed with a broken nose, and his availability for Friday was uncertain.
The Knicks are likely to be without rookie small forward RJ Barrett, who missed his third straight game Wednesday due to a right ankle injury. Barrett is expected to be re-evaluated Friday.
The Friday game is the second of four scheduled matchups between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Knicks are slated to host the Raptors again on March 25 before Toronto hosts New York in its regular-season home finale on April 12.
–Field Level Media