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Game Preview: Knicks at Raptors- 01/02/22

The short-handed Knicks start a new year in Toronto.

NBA: New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For one club, it was a happy New Year’s Eve. The other suffered yet another frustrating loss. On December 31, the Toronto Raptors beat the L.A. Clippers 116-108, while the New York Knicks fell to the OKC Thunder 95-80. The Knicks played without Julius Randle and Kemba Walker, but the remainders doomed themselves by shooting 8-of-41 from deep.

On Sunday afternoon, Toronto (15-17) hosts New York (17-19) for their first game of the new year. In their last meeting, the Raptors rode a 31-14 first quarter to a 90-87 victory. Gary Trent, Jr. scored 24 points for the Raptors, and RJ Barrett dropped 19 points for New York. The Knicks shot terribly from deep in that one, too, going 9-of-34. The problem ain’t new, folks.

In their last 10 games, the Raptors are 6-4 and the Knicks are 5-5. The Knicks currently rank tenth in the East and the Raptors are eleventh. Records-wise they are two evenly matched teams, but with possibly four New York starters out of action, this one doth feel shrouded by doubt….

Tip-off’s at 3:30 PM. It’s a matinee, Mounties!

PROJECTED STARTERS

In his last five games, point guard Fred VanVleet has averaged 23.6 points and 9.2 assists, upticks on his 20.4/6.8/5 season slash line. An elite passer, Crafted NBA ranks the 6’1”, 197 lb guard in the top percentiles for shot quality, shot creation, deflections, and portability (his fit with four random dudes). Plus, he’s shooting 43% from the field and 40% from deep. After missing two contests due to health and safety protocols, he returned to drop 31 points in 39 minutes against the Clippers.

Last week’s Eastern Conference player of the week, Kemba Walker missed the tilt against OKC due to knee soreness. He’ll sit today, too, allowing for Deuce McBride’s second start of his NBA career. I will enjoy watching the tenacious rookie defend the wily VanVleet.

Shooting guard Gary Trent, Jr. has averaged 14.8 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.4 steals in his last 5 games. Evan Fournier couldn’t contain him when last they met, with Trent shooting 5-of-7 from deep and 9-of-16 from the field. Fournier has right ankle soreness and was hampered in the loss to the Thunder. He’s questionable today, so expect Quentin Grimes to start instead.

Small forward OG Anunoby has averaged 19.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists this season. He missed time—including the last meeting with the Knicks—due to a hip pointer issue and h&s protocols, but OG was back in action against the Clippers, netting 26 points and six boards.

RJ Barrett played a solid game in Oklahoma (26 points, seven rebounds) but has yet to rediscover his shooting touch. With the other starters sitting, today presents a prime opportunity for the 21-year old Canadian to demonstrate leadership abilities.

Over his last five contests, power forward Pascal Siakam has averaged 21.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and five assists (upticks for him, too). Spicy P (so-called by Basketball-Reference) has a 50% eFG, but is shooting a gnarly 29% from long.

With Julius Randle out (h&s), Obi Toppin will start in the power forward position. The last time against Toronto, Obi scored 19 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. More of that good stuff, please, and less of that Oklahoma City stuff, Obadiah.

Center Khem Birch was inactive for much of the past two months due to a knee issue and health and safety protocols but was installed in the starting rotation for the New Year’s game. Precious Achiuwa has been recovering from right shoulder tendinitis and was also in h&s protocols for a spell. He played nine minutes against the Clippers and might be ready to start at the five for the Raptors versus New York.

Expect Taj Gibson to go for the Knicks, with Mitchell Robinson now in h&s protocols and Nerlens Noel still sitting.

PREDICTIONS

The Knicks will be at a disadvantage with so many players out and Taj and Obi as the de facto centers. VanVleet, Siakam, and Anunoby are challenges for anyone, let alone a young Knicks squad. New York should damn the torpedoes and let the kids run wild. Who knows? With enough spunk and energy, they might surprise Jurassics.

Scotiabank Arena. 3:30 PM. Go-go-gadget Knickerbockers!