Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors rolled over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Here are five takeaways from Toronto’s 122-95 win in New York.
The Triangle vs. Pick and Roll
The Knicks are an example of where basketball was. The Raptors are an example of where basketball has gone. New York stubbornly is still running the triangle offence and on Monday it was stagnant and at times non-existent. DeMar DeRozan said post-game he knew exactly when and where the opposition was going with the ball. New York scored just 15 points in the second quarter. Phil Jackson’s loyalty to the triangle is why he only hires his disciples. After firing his former player, Derek Fisher, his good friend Kurt Rambis is now 1-3 as interim head coach. Toronto had 31 points in the second quarter and its guards constantly got in the paint running basketball’s bread and butter play, the pick and roll. It’s not a new offensive set but every team uses it to compromise the defence by forcing switches. DeRozan and Kyle Lowry did a great job of finding the roller in Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo, who both scored in double figures. Toronto also did a great job of exposing New York’s weak side coverages in the pick and roll as the Knicks failed to help the helper and the Raptors continually found themselves with open corner threes because of it.
Mess in Manhattan
What a mess New York is. People reference the Philadelphia 76ers as being a mess but I honestly think the Knicks are in a worse situation moving forward. The Sixers have assets in the form of picks; the Knicks very well might lose their first-round pick to Toronto if Denver (.393) continues to have a worse record than New York (.414). They have a max player in Carmelo Anthony who scores (23 points versus Toronto) but doesn’t affect the game (-18 versus Toronto). Both of their coaches have been mired in controversy. Derek Fisher found himself in a pre-season fight with Matt Barnes while spending personal time away from the team to visit his girlfriend, who happens to be Barnes' estranged wife.
On Monday, Rambis inexplicably had to answer questions about liking a pornographic photo on twitter.
Naturally, he claimed his account was hacked. Boo’s rained down throughout the game in New York. The fans were calling for Jimmer Fredette, who was signed to a 10-day contract and who management has already stated probably won’t be around longer than that, as early as the second quarter with chants of “Jimmer.” It isn’t a pretty picture in New York right now.
Deal or No Deal
You can’t help but think a deal Masai Ujiri made and one he didn’t is the main reason the Knicks are in such a brutal spot. The Anthony trade was seen as great for the Knicks at the time -- not so much in hindsight. The Knicks have only made the playoffs once since Anthony's arrival and they’ll have to go 18-8 to get back to .500 this season. Anthony is now on his fourth coach since 2011. Considering the Knicks could have waited until Anthony hit free agency and not given up anything for him when they gave up multiple pieces to Ujiri's Denver Nuggets, including Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the deal has to be seen as one of the league’s worst. The deal that didn’t happen was trading Lowry to the Knicks at the deadline in 2014. Lowry has since gone on to play in back to back All-Star games. He killed New York Monday night with 22 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds for his eighth career triple double, sixth with the Raptors and first of the season. New York’s starting point guard, Jose Calderon, finished with zero points and underscored the fact the Knicks have the worst point guard situation in the league. If James Dolan’s phone rings and he sees a 416 area code and Ujiri’s name on the caller ID, it is best he doesn’t answer.
DeRozan became the winningest player in franchise history with 233 wins. His 22-point performance on 8-of-17 shooting was impressive, but the best part of his game was on defence. DeRozan’s three steals and engaged defence shows how much he’s grown and bought in during his time in Toronto. As the franchise has grown and matured the last few years, so has their star.
JJ deserves to play
James Johnson quietly has been a stabilizing force in the starting lineup. Johnson was a game-high plus-25 Monday while guarding Anthony. Johnson’s chief responsibility is playing great team defence, but he also chipped in with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Johnson was widely criticized for his tweet early in the season claiming he was underutilized, but he is playing within himself now and is a big reason Toronto has been so consistent. Even when DeMarre Carroll returns to the starting lineup from injury, Johnson is making a strong case that he belongs in the Dwane Casey’s playoff rotation.
The 122 points scored Monday is the Raptors' biggest output of the season, but once again the win was rooted in defence. The victory marks the 25th consecutive win when Toronto holds an opponent under 100 points.