On their recent mini-road trip, the New York Knicks nearly blew games in Chicago and New Orleans. In both contests, RJ Barrett distinguished himself offensively and defensively, with stellar play that preserved the wins. Monday, the Knicks return to the Garden to meet RJ’s hometown team. Will the Maple Mamba find rapture again against the Raptors?
WHEN LAST THEY MET
The Knicks beat Toronto 120-103 on April 24, 2021. Unlike in games this season, New York closed out strong, outscoring Toronto 32-20 in Q4. Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby (my favorite name in basketball) led the Raptors with 27 points apiece. Julius Randle scored 31 and 10 rebounds, and RJ chipped in 25 points, 12 rebounds.
This was the last victory of the Knicks nine-game win streak. Man, there were some magic times that season.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING IN TORONTO?
Due to the Canada’s COVID restrictions, the Raptors had to play home games in Florida last year. That, plus injuries and tanking, resulted in a 27-45 season.
They drafted Scottie Barnes fourth (not a bad perk for tanking), and Dalano Banton forty-sixth. Kyle Lowry took his talents to South Beach. In exchange, Toronto got Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa. They added Svi Mykhailiuk and some other dudes. Rodney Hood, DeAndre’ Bembry, Paul Watson and Aron Baynes all scattered in the wind.
Scottie Barnes will get votes for Rookie of the Year. He posted 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Pacers in their Saturday contest. So far, he’s averaging 18 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in 35 MPG. Those are professional stats, amigos. Many expected the Raptors to fade away with Pascal Siakam gone ’til November (shoulder). In replacement, Barnes has far exceeded expectations.
Fortunately for the Knicks, Barnes is probably out Monday.
The Raptors say Scottie Barnes is doubtful with a thumb sprain for tonight’s game in New York against the Knicks. Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe remain out with injuries.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 1, 2021
On the recent road trip, Julius Randle must have dearly missed his family and newborn baby Jayce. He lacked focus and energy. Returned home, Jules should be back to normal. With 25lbs on Barnes and the edge of experience, Jules should take the rook to the woodshed.
PG Fred VanVleet seems to always play well against New York. I checked how he fared against new Knick Kemba Walker, however. They met once last season, with Kemba scoring 21 points, three assists, VanVleet scoring five points, 11 assists. Kind of a wash.
The previous season, they met 11 times between regular season and playoffs. They were virtually a statistical match in those games: Kemba with 19 points, five assists; Fred with 18 points, six assists. Tells us what? If these guys are on their games, this pairing should be fun—and probably cancel each other out.
SG Gary Trent, Jr. is backsliding a bit this season, numbers-wise. He’s averaging 13.6 so far, and his eFG has dipped to 44%. If Evan Fournier is able to get a meal in NYC, he can handle Gary.
What the hell are you supposed to do when your Doordash guy keeps the food for himself? 2nd time it happens to me— Evan Fournier (@EvanFourmizz) October 29, 2021
SF OG Anunoby is a defensive hound and now scores, too. This season, he’s averaging 18 points and 5.6 rebounds, which are career numbers. Expect RJ Barrett to guard him. Barrett took a star turn in his previous two games. OG presents another opportunity to prove that RJ’s growth is real.
Sophomore C Precious Achiuwa is averaging 9.1 and 8.6 rebounds. He has a good motor but shouldn’t be too tough for Mitchell Robinson.
SF Yuta Watanabe will be out with a calf issue.
I’m filing a missing persons report for Nerlens Noel. Still the knee. Still out.
Expect a tough one, Knicks fans. Eyeball test says that New York has slight advantages at power forward, shooting guard, and center. Our bench should have the edge, too. This would be a good night for Derrick Rose and Obi Toppin to flex a bit—and, of course, some more Maple Mamba magic. Knicks win this one in yet another nail-biter.
Monday. New York City, 7:30 PM. Go the Knicks.