Tonight RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley made their first return to Madison Square Garden as their new team, the Toronto Raptors (16-27), took on the New York Knicks (26-17). You know the backstory. Here’s the ovation:
Here’s the MSG crowd’s ovation for both Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett during pregame introductions: pic.twitter.com/ZfcKOMRLWy— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 21, 2024
In their homecoming, RJ scored 20 points, and IQ contributed 12 points and 11 assists. It was all for naught. A team effort by the Knicks turned a sloppy first half into a second half slaughter. Among their starters, Julius Randle recorded a 18/16/10 triple-double, OG Anunoby added 14 points and four blocks, and Jalen Brunson scored 38 points and nine assists. Brunson has been especially outstanding over his last ten games. Over that span (including tonight), he has averaged 28.8 points and 8.2 assists. All-Star? Absolutely. But what about MVP?
From the bench, Precious Achiuwa delivered his best game as a Knick (an 18/11 double-double!), and Josh Hart was excellent, rating +20 with 10 points and nine boards.
New York made up for 21 turnovers by dominating the glass, 61-31. Final score, 126-100. Went like this.
Eight turnovers plus poor transition defense caused the Knicks to fall behind by eleven points in the first quarter. Fueled by the motivated tandem of Quickley and Barrett, the Raptors went on a 13-0, mid-period run that lasted just under two minutes and left New York dizzy. Toronto had 18 fast break points in the quarter. The Knicks’ resistance was futile.
The good news was that the Knicks had made seven of 14 three-point attempts in Q1, including three by Jalen Brunson. If not for general sloppiness, they would have been up by a dozen. A 10-2 rally let them tie the game by the end of the frame, 31 apiece.
RJ Barrett played 297 games as a Knick.
In the first quarter, the Knicks bench outscored their total output in the last game (nine tonight, seven Thursday). Josh Hart made the difference. He had missed the previous tilt due to knee soreness but returned to fight Toronto tonight. Hart logged seven first-half points and a game-high +14 rating.
In the second quarter, the bench crew played with OG Anunoby and a stronger defensive effort helped New York to seize a seven-point lead. OG contributed three buckets in the second frame, like so:
The Raptors clawed back to briefly regain the lead at the seven minute mark, but the Knicks’ starters returned and, despite continued sloppiness, pushed ahead again. They went into intermission up 59-57.
In the first half, IQ had eight points and eight assists, RJ added 15 points. For the Knicks, Julius and Jalen each had 15 points. Their team had outshot their opponent from the floor (57% to 48%), and both clubs had hit 38% from deep. New York won the battle for the boards (28-12), but those 13 turnovers and the resulting 21 points were ugly marks on the box score.
After halftime, the Knicks raced off on a 28-6 sprint, including 14 points by Jalen Brunson. In the third quarter, New York continued to beat Toronto on the boards, 17-7. As the Bockers opened a 20-point gash, it became clear that the Raptors were no match for a Knicks squad performing to their potential.
This sequence was— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) January 21, 2024
Nothing but fastballs all around lol pic.twitter.com/g7PfbfVtlG
Things got slightly tense toward the tail end of the quarter, when rookie Raptor Gradey Dick drained back-to-back triples. By the buzzer, the score was 92-78.
In the third quarter, Quickley dished up three more dimes to notch a season-high 11 assists. IQ has a bright future in his role as the Raptors lead point guard. He played 253 games as a Knick and many of them were electrifying.
Immanuel Quickley chat with his "son," Isaiah Hartenstein pic.twitter.com/mNuJIG8wBc— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 20, 2024
In a worrisome note on the MSG broadcast, Mike Breen reported that Isaiah Hartenstein had injured his left ankle and would not return to the game. The current back-up center, Precious Achiuwa, delivered his best game as a Knick right on time. The ex-Raptor finished with 18 points and 11 boards in 25 minutes.
To their credit, the Knicks went up by 24 in the last quarter but they kept playing defense. In one less-beauteous moment, with five minutes remaining, Bruce Brown blocked a Quentin Grimes shot from deep and collected the ball for an easy score that cut the lead to 20. Thibodeau barked for a timeout and yanked Grimes. If we needed any more proof that Grimes is not long for the team, that was it.
A trip to Brooklyn for a battle with the Nets on Tuesday. Enjoy the break, Knickerbockers.