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Raptors 118, Knicks 107: 'Who is this 92?'

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Old uniforms, typical Knicks loss.

NBA: New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

A good Knicks’ effort in a fun game was welcome, but ended disappointingly, as the boys in orange and blue lost 118-107 to the Toronto Raptors. Both teams brought the energy to the second night of a back-to-back. After being outshot 43-17 at the line Friday in Boston, the differential tonight was 38-16 in favor of Toronto. Rome wasn’t built in a day, yo.

Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose both got off to good scoring starts, while DeMar DeRozan struggled to get going. Melo in particular was hitting from all angles, netting 20 in the first half as if five Tony Brothers were checking him. Kyle O’Quinn and Brandon Jennings were impacting off the bench, countering the efforts of Toronto’s Terrence Ross. The Knicks were up most of the opening half, thanks in part to dominating the boards, especially the offensive glass, led by Joakim Noah.

The third quarter came and wowsers trousers so did the fouls. Courtney Lee had three in the opening minutes and the Knicks put the Raptors in the penalty. DeRozan, who’d struggled to find his shot, found it thanks to 13 free throw attempts, quickly and irrevocably shifting from from 2015 Can’t Shoot DeMar to 2017 Olympian DeMar. The lead went back and forth. At one point New York, down three, missed a three in transition, rebounded a Kyle Lowry miss and raced downcourt again, only for Mindaugas Kuzminskas to miss a lay-up, have his follow blocked, then miss a tip-in. Toronto came down court and Norman Powell missed an open three that would’ve put the Raptors up six but felt like ten. Those are the misses you need sometimes to win.

Early in the fourth, Kristaps Porzingis drove baseline for a reverse throwdown over Patrick Patterson, a remarkable display of talent and willpower. On the next Raptor possession, a loose ball and a broken play led to an open corner three for Patterson. C’est la vie. For most of the fourth quarter, every loose ball and offensive rebound was gravitationally pulled into Toronto hands. You don’t know shit, Schrodinger. Those are the makes the other team sometimes needs to win.

The fourth was fun! A KP bucket pulled the Knicks within one. 97-96. Toronto missed their next shot and Rose pushed all up-court by himself, getting into the lane and drawing a foul. You could see 50 feet from the rim he was gonna do that. Having a point guard who can do that is pretty sweet. DeRozan then hit a three while being fouled, ‘cuz of course a guy who’s hit two threes all year gets a four-point play there. Duh.

The Raptors started double-teaming Porzingis a lot, before he caught it in the post and after he went into his move. It cost them when he found Rose cutting to the hoop to tie it at 101. Next time down the Raptors doubled him again, but this time it cost nothing, as Anthony missed a three. Another time he was doubled and found a cutting Noah, who drew a foul Toronto didn’t look heartbroken to have given.

Then Lucas Nogueira descended from the heavens to bring fiery judgment upon the Knicks, finishing alley-oops and blocking shots and smiting the firstborn of every family in the kingdom, from the highborns to the lowliest servants. Yet another Porzingis dunk (he had like six tonight) off a cut and feed from Rose pulled the Knicks within two, but after the dunk he touched the ball, which is a delay of game, which was the Knicks’ second, which was a technical, which felt like the beginning of the end. Lowry took over on the offensive end and Nogueira rejected a Melo baseline floater and a Rose drive. In the final minute Lowry missed a three as the shot clock expired, but the Raptors (natch) got the offensive rebound. Guess who. Rhymes with Flo-terr-a. The nail in the coffin came after Toronto inbounded with the Knicks looking for a steal or quick foul; Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday doubled DeRozan, but left the baseline open, which he drove down for the and-one. Sigh.

Notes:

  • Only four players in like 50 years scored 30+ points in 8 of a season’s first 9 games: Michael Jordan, World B. Free, Tiny Archibald, and DeRozan. Every list I see DeRozan on is a list he looks like he doesn’t belong. I know he’s good. How good?
  • Next time someone says something’s impossible, repeat this mantra: “DeMar DeRozan leads the NBA in scoring.”
  • DeRozan leads the league in scoring despite only hitting two three three-pointers all year. Next time someone says something’s impossible, punch them in the throat.
  • Noah had himself a night on the boards: 18.
  • Lance Thomas making shots is a thing I remember the way I remember the 'Ernest' movies: it used to happen, a long time ago, and it’s getting harder to remember that world. He missed the second half with a sore left ankle, the same ankle that made him miss the Chicago game.
  • The Knicks ran a TON of off-the-ball action for Porzingis. A couple diagonal cuts to the baseline resulted in reverse dunks. He also got paint points and free throws off such movement. This is, for me, the most welcome development of the Hornacek era so far. What’s yours?
  • Midway through the fourth, Toronto was outscoring New York 20-5 in transition. This is, for me, the least welcome continuation of what’s happened under every coach I can remember pre-Hornacek. What’s yours?
  • After Porzingis was whistled for traveling, I disagreed, then realized I never think Porzingis travels, then realized that’s cuz I’ve never seen someone that big move the way he does, so there’s no precedent for it looking like traveling.
  • Rebecca Haarlow interviewed Kurt Rambis at halftime. Imagine falling into a coma six months ago, waking up at halftime, seeing that, and thinking he was the head coach. Imagine.
  • You know what’s cool when KP goes into a spin move? Someone always ends up wide open from three. Guards’ eyes grow wide when they see Groot on the move. But his vision and balance cause surprises, because he’s tall and he’s awesome, so he doesn’t crash into guys or turn it over. Going back to his Sevilla days, passing was never a strength of his. If he can add the spin move to his repertoire, the kid’ll be all right all over.
  • Lee is the kind of comfortable shooting the ball that makes me feel comfortable, too. Not ‘cuz he’s some wicked sharpshooter. After the Knicks’ long nuclear winter of uninspiring two-guards, I like seeing a guy who looks like he knows that he knows what he’s doing.
  • O’Quinn got an offensive rebound and tried to put it back but missed and then got stuffed but kept coming and eventually got it to fall and my Charles Smith pain died down a little. I wasn’t expecting that. But it did. Old = sentimental.
  • Early in the game, Mike Breen was talking about Hornacek declaring Willy Hernangomez the Knicks’ first big off the bench. Tonight Willy played four quiet first-half minutes, and that was that.
  • Jennings took a beautiful backdoor feed from O’Quinn but missed a wide-open lay-up. Jennings does lots of exciting things. A lot of good things. He also strikes me high on the list of guys likely to miss wide-open lay-ups. Girl I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why...
  • Uglier miss: Rose shooting threes or Noah shootings twos? One looks like a carrier plane running out of gas and coming up short of the runway; the other looks like a land mine going off.
  • Walt Clyde Frazier with a “Zest and finesse!” after a Kuzminskas lefty-drive. <3 <3 <3
  • At one point Clyde said: “It’s like in college, Mike. If you don’t know, you don’t know.” Breen cracked up at this. Imagine watching the past 15 years of Knick basketball with scrub announcers. If nothing else, New York’s announcer game and legacy is second to none.
  • The blue-and-white Raptor uniforms -- throwbacks to their Huskies days — are not quite stupid fresh. But fresh nevertheless.
  • 70 years and six days ago, New York and Toronto played the first-ever NBA game. If you were taller than one of the Huskies, who was 6’8”, you got in for free. They should resurrect this promotion at MSG with Porzingis. When you were a kid, ever guess how many marbles or gumballs were in a jar? How many people are walking around the five boroughs 7’4” or taller? Literally whatever the answer is, it’s interesting.
  • Right before the game started, someone backed out of a driveway and slammed into my car. I walked out to see the damage. It looked okay until the very end of my walk, when I reached the door. That was tonight’s game, kind of: it looked fine. It really did. Until the very end. When it looked really not.
  • The Raptors play the same “Are you readyyyyy?” clip over the P.A. before tipoff that the Knicks do. That everybody does. If x represents the number of hours per year humans waste per year complaining about NBA players being too chummy — a.k.a. humane — and lamenting the good ol’ days, what figure represents the amount of time spent lamenting the owners’ standardizing of the arena experience? Arenas used to be unique ecosystems. Arenas had flavor.

Quoth Rice2012: “Who is this 92?” Lucas Nogueira, that’s who. Next tip is Monday at MSG against Dallas. The highest number on the Mavs is Salah Mejri’s #50. If your recap that night features Salah Mejri delivering the killing stroke, we’re gonna need a Tuesday intervention. Til then, love and light, y’all.