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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Raptors- 12/21/22

Don’t let the record fool you

NBA: New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What. A. Time. To. Be. Alive.

The New York Knicks have won eight straight games (I still can’t really believe it), and on Wednesday night they’ll have a shot to make it nine at home against the Toronto Raptors. Now, record-wise, the Raptors look like an unimpressive team that the Knicks should take care of easily. But Toronto, despite having an incredibly disappointing season, still have the players, the experience, and the coach to take a game from any team in the league. Even though they’ve suffered defeats to teams like the Hawks, Thunder, Pacers, Magic (twice), and Bulls, they’ve also played well against some of the better teams in the league . They beat a formidable Heat team and a good Cavaliers team late last month, battled until the end against a very good Celtics team earlier this month, lost by just one to a much improved Kings team last week, and lost to the Sixers by just three on Monday. If the Knicks want to keep their win streak alive, they’ll have to have the kind of non-selfish ball movement and disciplined defense that they showed last night in route to a blow victory against the Warriors.


After combining for just 37 points over a three-game stretch two weeks ago, Jalen Brunson has been on a tear. Over his last four games, the potential first-time All-Star is averaging 25.8PPG and 5.3APG on an efficient 49.3% from the field and a blazing hot 60.9% from 3. He’s also found a way to be more impactful on defense as the undersized guard has been playing the passing lanes very well averaging 1.8SPG during that span.

He’ll be matched up against Fred VanVleet (6’1”, 197 lb.), who is having his worst offensive season since the 19-20 season. VanVleet is in the midst of a hot streak himself (24.7PPG and 5.7APG on 42.5% from the field) but has been largely disappointing besides that. On the season, the former All-Star is averaging just 18.7PPG on an abysmal 37.9% from the field.

This is where it gets interesting for a Knicks starting lineup that has been consistent throughout their current win streak. It’s currently being reported that Quentin Grimes is doubtful for tonight’s game due to the ankle sprain he suffered in the first half. Thibs has a few options to get the start spot but my guess is that it’ll be Immanuel Quickley getting the nod. Quickley is coming off a great game where he scored 22 points in 22 minutes on an efficient 6-10 from the field and 5-6 from 3. If he can shoot the way he did last night, he provide the Knicks with enough defense and shooting to make up for Grimes’ absence.

The Raptors are also dealing with an injury at the shooting guard position as Gary Trent Jr. is questionable with a quad injury. OG Anunoby (6’7”, 232 lb.), who is usually listed as a forward, should slide up and start at the two tonight. Anunoby, a hot commodity around the league for his high level defense and improving offense, is enjoying the best season of his career so far averaging 18.7PPG, 5.8RPG and a league-leading 2.4SPG. In what could be a closely contested game, his defense and steals could be a different maker so the Knicks will have to make sure they take care of the ball.

Starting against his hometown team will be RJ Barrett, who is averaging 19.6PPG on 41.1% shooting against the Raptors for his career. After getting off to an incredibly slow start, Barrett has picked it back up as of late, averaging 24PPG on 46.5% shooting over his last six games. He is currently in the midst of a 1-11 slump from downtown so hopefully he can find his form again.

Barrett will be going head-to-head with sophomore standout Scottie Barnes (6’9”, 227 lb.). Barnes has taken a step back in the scoring department averaging 14.6PPG (15.3 last season) on 44.9% from the field (49.2% last season), but has upped his assist numbers to 4.6APG. Barnes’ numbers may not catch your attention but the young forward is a very versatile player who defends at a very high level.

Julius Randle got this win streak going by averaging 31.3PPG on 45.6% shooting between the 7th and 14th of December. Since then, he’s come down to earth and been relatively mediocre averaging 19.7PPG on 40% from the field in his last three games. Randle is still having a very nice bounce back season, not just offensively but also in terms of body language, energy, and even the defense as of late. On the second night of a back-to-back and Grimes being out, the Knicks may need Randle to get going again and have himself a big game.

In what should be one of the two big matchups to watch for tonight (the other one being the PG battle), Pascal Siakam (6’9”, 230lb.) will battle Randle. The seventh year veteran is having a career-year averaging 25PPG, 8.6RPG, and 6.8APG, all of which are career-highs. Even with the rest of the team struggling to find any form of consistency, Siakam has been a rock and figures to be in the All-Star conversation going forward. Expect Siakam, who exploded for 38 points (one of three Raptors with double-digit points) in Monday’s loss to the Sixers, to continue being aggressive in an effort to will his team to a win.

Mitchell Robinson, who’s been very good both as an offensive rebounder and a defender, ever since coming back from his injury, will continue to man the middle for the Knicks. Expect Robinson, who is among the league’s best offensive rebounders (third in the league with 4.3ORPG), to have a big night against a Raptors team that ranks just 19th in the league in rebounding.

The Raptors have recently been starting Juancho Hernangomez (6’9”, 214.) and going small but it will be an interesting matchup that may ultimately be a chess match between the coaches to see who tries to impose their strategy and style on to the game. Will the shooting and spacing of Hernangomez in out or will Robinson and the Knicks be able to take advantage of the size advantage and punish the Raptors down low?


As stated earlier, this one won’t be as one sided as the record suggests. The Raptors, despite being in a state of disarray and inconsistency, are still a very capable team with multiple champions. If the Knicks, who are on the second night of a back-to-back, get too cocky and underestimate the Raptors, it could easily go bad. Thankfully, this team, led by Thibodeau, Randle, and Brunson, have been beating teams that they’re supposed to beat as of late. With Grimes out, this won’t be as easy of a game as the Warriors one last night, but I have the Knicks winning an ugly game 103-98. Quickley carries his hot shooting from last night, Barrett gets back on track, and Randle goes toe to toe with Siakam who figures to have another big game.