Without the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Jose Calderon, one might expect the Knicks to get blown out by a Raptors team led by two NBA all-stars on the road.
But surprisingly enough, New York was able to hang tough throughout much of the contest. Much like their matchup with the Thunder earlier in the week, the Knicks received scrappy and gritty efforts from a number of players. Robin Lopez and Kyle O'Quinn manned the paint to the best of their abilities, but Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas was a beast on the offensive boards and fought hard to create massive second-chance scoring opportunities for his team.
Given the weapons they had in available in their arsenal, it's impressive how close the Knicks remained, even closing the gap further at times with mini runs here and there. But in the end, they lacked the killer instinct to really attempt and get Toronto up against the wall. Players didn't seem to believe in themselves. No one or two players were confident enough to lead the charge and attack the opponent when they were teetering towards losing the lead. Gaining such a mentality comes with time together and added maturity as a team, regardless of whether or not the stars are suiting up. Just ask the Spurs.
Here are some other observations from the loss:
- Jerian Grant deserves kuos, despite looking unsure of himself at a couple points in the contest. He displayed relatively strong court vision, but failed to penetrate and attack the Raptors' defense much like a point guard should. He, like many Knicks, also struggled at the charity stripe. The team shot 50 percent, which likely was key to their demise.
- Usually able to take charge like a man possessed in the absence of key scorers, Derrick Williams fell way short of hitting the mark on Thursday. He wasn't aggressive, and as such, the lower percentage shots he threw up led to more misses on the floor. Players are expected to step up when given more opportunities, but the likes of Langston Galloway and Sasha Vujacic played better than Williams.
- As mentioned, O'Quinn's 8 point, 6 rebound, 2 block effort in just 19 minutes of play was strong. He has to learn how to be just as productive on a consistent basis, because the Knicks are still searching for a reliable big man off the bench.