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Raptors 122, Knicks 95: "Knicks defense happened"


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Any day now, Adam Silver will announce the Knicks have reacquired their 2016 first round pick. He has to. That's the only way to explain this team's seemingly sudden tank job. Tonight's 122-95 defeat to the Toronto Raptors, New York's 12th loss in 14 games, was straight outta 2015: an inevitable, unstoppable, unsettling bloodletting.

The Knicks actually had the lead after the opening quarter, thanks to another torrid start by Robin Lopez, who had 12 in the frame, and thanks to the defense holding Toronto to 36% shooting. Then the second quarter came and laid waste to the land, and the sun became black as sackcloth, and the moon ran red with blood. A 24-6 Raptor run to close the half put them up 14, helped by New York missing their final six free throws. The Knicks had no answer for Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. The home crowd booed lustily. Maybe that's redundant, but "lustily" is a criminally underused adverb (except when used after "booed").

The third quarter was pretty much more of the same, with the lead at 18 entering the fourth. Jerian Grant and Kristaps Porzingis messing around looked better than anything anyone besides Lopez had come up with all night and cut the deficit to 12, awaking the crowd and building some momentum. But Langston Galloway missed a wide-open three, Bismack Biyombo got a lay-up, Porzingis missed a three, a Lowry lay-up pushed it back to 16, and that was that.

How can a group that was .500 and inspiring playoff talk one month ago look so awful so soon after? It's dangerous and pretty much impossible to accuse a team of not caring, so I wouldn't say the Knicks didn't care. I would say they often looked like tonight's game wasn't their hearts' deepest desire. The 122 points surrendered was the most they've given up in regulation all season. This is probably the best Toronto team ever, one with two All-Stars in their backcourt. The Knicks don't have two starting-caliber guards, period. Often the simplest explanation is the most likely.


- Seven Raptors in double-figures, three with 20+: Lowry (22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists), DeMar DeRozan (22), and Jonas Valanciunas (20 in 25 minutes).

- Remember when the Knicks could have traded Iman Shumpert and a future 1st rounder (I think 2018) for Lowry? Entering the Porzingislithic era, would you rather have that pick, or Lowry?

- Never pegged DeRozan to be this good. Thought he'd be a rich man's Gerald Green. Turns out he's a poor man's Dwyane Wade. Which means he'll be a very, very rich DeMar DeRozan this summer.

- Luis Scola is the kind of guy who had the same game at 13 years old that he does now and that he'll have five years after he's dead. He's like the Platonic ideal of YMCA Old Man Game.

- Lopez (7-10) and Derrick Williams (2-3) were the only Knicks to hit more than half their first-half shots. The rest of the Knicks were 7 of 28. Michael Jordan shot 7 of 28 in his first game back after a 21-month retirement. This was the kind of night that made you wish the Knicks would retire for 21 months.

- A Terrence Ross dunk with less than two minutes in the game put Toronto up 24. Kurt Rambis called timeout, making him the Bizarro Derek Fisher, who called timeouts super early. If only that Bizarro-ness was restricted to on-court matters.

- After the timeout, Rambis brought in Jimmer Fredette, who hit his first shot, a three. The crowd was elated. On the next Knick possession, Kyle O'Quinn shot instead of Fredette. The crowd was not elated.

- The opening six minutes of this game featured some of the butt-ugliest bricks you will ever see, from both teams. And it wasn't just the usual suspects - even Carmelo and Jose Calderon's aim was more than a tad askew. Lance Thomas entered the game and promptly had his first shot blocked cleanly. It was, relatively, a thing of beauty.

- Your Plus/Minus Is Kinda A Sophistry Stat of the Night: Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas were the only two Knicks to finish the first half on the positive in plus/minus...yet in 17 combined minutes, they hadn't scored a single point nor grabbed a single rebound.

Quoth Cole Aldrich's Missing Tooth: "Knicks defense happened." The defense will next happen (or not) Wednesday in Indiana. Tune in! Flashback to where the only good Knick team this century met their demise three years ago, and dream of where they could be three years from now, with a veteran Porzingis...and whatever player they get next year who isn't Kyle Lowry.