The Knicks entered Thursday’s New Year’s Eve matchup against the Toronto Raptors leading the NBA in three-point percentage. They would not maintain their position in the outside shooting leaderboards, missing 33 of 36 treys against Toronto, falling to 13th in the league in outside shooting, and ultimately losing by 17.
Playing in Toronto’s temporary Tampa home in front of about 3,800 fans, New York’s shooting woes were pronounced from the start; yet the team once again looked relatively competent, hanging tough until late in the third quarter, at which point they allowed the Raptors to start building a significant lead.
Reggie Bullock (0-9) and RJ Barrett (0-8) went a combined 0-17 from 3-point range tonight.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2021
They are the 1st pair of teammates in NBA history to each go 0-8 or worse from 3-point range in a game. pic.twitter.com/ZvecwU6aME
To be fair, the Knicks were without a host of bodies, including bench scorer extraordinaire Alec Burks, plus Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. To be fairer, the Raptors were without their top dog, Pascal Siakim, who was benched as a disciplinary matter after he left the floor early during Toronto’s previous loss to Philadelphia.
In the end, here’s what really matters: the Knicks remain undefeated in the 2021.
Fresh start. 2021, let's get it pic.twitter.com/sYBzAgav9K— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 1, 2021
Okay, let’s get to the action. Perhaps in an attempt to forewarn those fans who chose to spend their New Year’s Eve watching basketball, the Knicks opened the evening missing six of their first seven shots, leading Mike Breen to remark that there were “a lot of bricks early on here.”
Tom Thibodeau’s first timeout came with 6:32 to go in the first and the Knicks down six. The breather failed to breathe any life into the Knicks, which continued to pile up bricks like they do business in construction rather than basketball. Still, the Raptors weren’t ablaze, and by the end of the first quarter, Toronto was up 22-18.
Austin Rivers was playing point guard to start the second quarter, which begs the question: do the Knicks have… too many point guards?? JK lol. But it’s nice to have another ball handler.
Austin Rivers' First Game— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) January 1, 2021
Austin Rivers' First Touch
Austin Rivers' First AST for the @nyknicks
(nice 3 Kev) pic.twitter.com/CsUSm3shke
Midway through the second, the Knicks were 2-17 from deep but only down 32-31, thanks to the continued exploits of Julius Randle, plus a hefty dose of bench scoring from Kevin Knox, who is from Tampa and was playing in front of some family members.
Near the end of the second quarter, Randle actually gave the Knicks their first lead of the game, sinking what Walt Clyde Frazier called a “fallback baby jumper” and earning the foul. The play put the Knicks up 42-40, and it still seemed possible the Knicks could pull this one out, if only they could start hitting some of those three-pointers. At the half, it was tied.
That's just too easy pic.twitter.com/XDbIAqCg6E— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 1, 2021
The Knicks looked okay to open the third, but Mitchell Robinson picked up his fourth foul of the night midway through the quarter. Meanwhile, the Raptors were doubling Randle before he could get into the lane and create havoc and playing some zone defense. The end of the third is where it started to really fall apart. Which, again, considering the Knicks had one of the most anemic three-point shooting performances possible, it’s almost actually impressive that they remained close for much of the night.
Toronto eventually took a 61-58 lead. Before long, it was 68-60. At the end of the third quarter, it was 71-64. The Raptors poured it on in the final period, winning the fourth quarter by a score of 29-19 and finishing up 2020 with a 100-83 victory. It was their first win of the season. With the loss, the Knicks fall to 2-3.
> As previously noted, Knox was playing in his hometown in front of his parents. He had himself a fine overall night, although by his loosey goosey offensive play it was very obvious that he wanted to impress the locals. Knox finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds on 5-14 shooting, including 2-8 from three. He continues to look like a guy who could flourish when put in the right position and forced to display discipline.
Kev stayed aggressive all night.— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 1, 2021
16 PTS | 6 REB in his return to Tampa. pic.twitter.com/TmCmDSwbYM
> Randle’s stat line wasn’t as gaudy as other recent efforts, but he once again was the best all around Knick on the floor, amassing 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. He also only had 3 turnovers, which is a welcome sight after previously tallying 9 turnovers against Cleveland. Late in the night, Randle appeared to hurt his foot or something, but it didn’t seem too serious. Here’s hoping that is true.
> Nerlens Noel looked better on offense as the game went along, but in the early goings he played like he had slathered butter all over his hands just before stepping on the court. Noel is a suitable backup for Robinson right now. Let’s thank our lucky stars the Knicks realized what his role should be.
> In his Knicks debut, Austin Rivers had 7 points and 5 assists in 21 minutes. If everyone gets healthy, Thibs is going to have a crowded, if not unspectacular, backcourt.
> RJ Barrett’s shooting woes continued, as the sophomore missed 15 of his 19 shots, including each of the 8 threes he took. Not great. On the bright side, RJ never lets shooting struggles stop him from doing other stuff; on Thursday, he totaled 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. His inconsistent shot is concerning, but there’s still plenty to be pleased with.
> Despite shooting only 8% from beyond the arc and 36% from the field overall, the Knicks nailed 16 of 20 free throws, good for 80%. Take small victories where you can, folks.
The Knicks got blown out, but they played their game and just couldn’t buy a bucket. Sometimes, things simply aren’t for sale. RockyRaccoon06 put it most appropriately: ‘Why can’t we hit a three pointer tonight?’
The Knicks, which, again, are still undefeated in 2021, play next on Saturday at Indiana. Hopefully guys like Frank, IQ and Burks can get healthy for that one.