Finally, the New York Knicks (36-45) will limp across the finish line today, quite literally. There are eight names on their injury report, including such popular folk as RJ Barrett (knee, Out), Quentin Grimes (knee, Day-to-Day), Deuce McBride (knee, DD), and Mitchell Robinson (illness, DD). Count on some serious Ryan Arcidiacono minutes today, friends.
Sunday’s opponent, the Toronto Raptors (48-33) sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, are 8-2 over their last 10 and have won three straight. Their defense rates ninth in the league, and their offense is 14th. On Friday, they compiled 32 fourth-quarter points to fend off the Rockets, 117-115. These scrappy dinos are ready for the playoffs.
For the 2021-22 Knicks, though, a disappointing season concludes here. The Canadian club whomped them 120-105 when they last met, feuled by Fred VanVleet’s 35 points. Evan Fournier scored 20 on 6-for-14 for New York.
Given all the injured Knicks, you’d be right to expect another whomping. On the other hand, today’s game is inconsequential to Toronto’s playoff seeding, so Nick Nurse might opt to rest his guys. If so, you just know Thibs will be salivating for blood, hell-bent on wringing every last bit of effort from his squad….
Tip-off’s at 7:00 p.m., moral victory fans.
VanVleet is listed as day-to-day with a knee issue. Sophomore Armoni Brooks (6’3”, 195 lbs) started for him on Friday and will again today, most likely. In limited usage, Brooks has averaged 5.4 points and 1.2 assists in 53 games this season.
With Barrett out and the Knicks short-handed, Thibs would be wise to shift Alec Burks to the wing and start Immanuel Quickley at the one. Quickley has averaged 16.4 points, 7.2 assists, and 5.8 rebounds in just shy of 30 minutes over the last 5 games. Despite a rocky start, IQ has been a stud since the All-Star break. I can’t wait to see what the 22-year old does next year.
The fourth pick in the 2021 Draft, Scottie Barnes (6’9”, 227 lbs) gave Toronto a hell of a performance this year. He has averaged 15.4 points, 7.6 boards, 3.4 dimes, and 35.6 minutes over 73 games. The effervescent Florida State alum sits 10th in the league with 2596 minutes played and has a 55% True Shooting. He might not win Rookie of the Year, but he deserves the consideration.
In his fourth pro season, Gary Trent, Jr. (6’5”, 209 lbs) has averaged 18.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. He shoots 41% from the floor and 38% from Treytown on 7.8 attempts. The former Blue Devil ranks third in the Association with 1.8 steals per game.
Pascal Siakam (6’9”, 230 lbs) leads the Raptors with 22.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. His 37.9 minutes per outing is tied with FVV for tops on the team, and his 5.3 assists are second only to Fred. The New Mexico State product has a shooting slashline of 49/34/75.
Siakam’s counterpart, Obi Toppin will seek to continue his excellent play of late. Against Washington on Friday, Obi set a new career-high with 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting and 6-for-9 from beyond the arc. The future is bright for Dunker’s Delight, Jr.
Toronto’s center Khem Birch (6’9”, 233 lbs) has averaged 4.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 18 minutes per game. If Mitchell Robinson sits with a lingering illness, Jericho Sims will start for New York. The 23-year old Minnesotan played 34+ minutes in the last two games and averaged 7.2 boards, 4.4 points, and 1.6 blocks in his last five.
The legend Mike Breen praised Sims for being fun to watch. Agreed, Mike. A further-developed starter/reserve combo of Robinson and Sims would give the 2022-23 Knicks all the rim protection a New Britain boy could ever want.
Knicks’ coach Tom Thibodeau, of New Britain, CT, is constitutionally opposed to tanking, and the Raptors stand to gain nothing from today’s affair. Still, Toronto is a health five-point favorite at the time of posting, according to DraftKings.
The question is, can the remaining Knicks upend a disinterested and/or resting Toronto team? You bet. Prediction: the Knicks take Toronto to overtime and wrap the season with a three-point bow.
Madison Square Garden. Sunday. 7:00 p.m. Thanks for the memories, Knicks.
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