One Play Away — Jan 24, 2020: Toronto 118 NY 112

The Knicks battled the defending champion Toronto Raptors to the wire on a Friday night at Madison Square Garden, and were one play away from taking this game, according to coach Mike Miller.

  • The Knicks had battled back from being down 12 earlier in the 4th quarter, and tied the game with 4 minutes left on Marcus Morris free throws. But OG Anunoby hit a 3 from the corner the other way (Damyean Dotson was a tad late getting over).
  • The Knicks pulled back to within a point on an Elfrid Payton jumper in the lane. But then Payton turned the ball over on the next possession, on a pass to Julius Randle that he did not come out for and was intercepted, and Toronto scored the other way to go up by 3.
  • Later, down 3 and still with a chance with 11 seconds left, Damyean Dotson switched off Pascal Siakam late leaving him open to drain a 3 and give Toronto an insurmountable 6 point lead with 22 seconds left and ballgame.

It was yet another close loss to a good team, the Knicks having lost to the Lakers the game before — and Miller was asked afterwards how the team can get over the hump.

One More Play

“I think we’re playing a competitive level of basketball and when you play a competitive level of basketball, it comes down to the final plays and we got to get better at making those plays”, said coach Mike Miller. “You know we’ve had a lot of close games; we’ve come out on top on some; we’ve come up short on some. I hope in all of those situations we’re learning how to handle the situation; and we’re a lot sharper as we get into it. I told the guys we got to make another play; that’s where we’re at right now — we got to make another play when we get down to it; instead of we tie it late — we (then) get a stop — and then we go to the next play. So it’s just making that next play.”

Knicks Played Well

Julius Randle rebounded off his poor Laker game to shoot well and play well — 7-15 for 20 pts, 11 rebounds, and a +11. He hit some BIG buckets in the final minutes on splendid drives and some second efforts. Marcus Morris had almost identical numbers — 7-15 shooting for 21 points and 10 rebounds for a +6.

Damyean Dotson had maybe his best game as a pro — 21 points on red hot shooting; 7-10 and 4-7 from 3 (although shhhh he was a -13) in 27 minutes. Reggie Bullock added 11 pts on 4-8 shooting (3-7 from 3).

And Bobby Portis shot well (12 pts on 5-8) and played excellent defense down the stretch — guarding Marc Gasol but also often switching to guard one of Toronto’s quick guards — Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet — and did an excellent job against both! He also hit a couple of Big shots down the stretch including a 3 from the corner and a traditional 3-point play in the lane.

But it was Elfrid Payton who really led the Knicks down the stretch with heady passes and team leadership, plus hitting two back-to-back buckets in crunch time. He turned the ball over on one of those final plays but overall was one of the main reasons why the Knicks came back in the 4th.

Robinson Played Well But Did Not Fill Boxscore

Mitchell Robinson had 6 points on 3-3 but only 3 rebounds and 1 block in 22 minutes, causing MSG analyst Wally Szczerbiak to say on the post game that Robinson needed to be more consistent filling the boxscore on a nightly basis in the NBA to move to the next level. One of his field goals was on a beautiful long-distance alley oop pass from Kevin Knox on the break.

Part 3 of “The Plan” Being Executed

Kevin Knox (11  minutes) and Frank Ntilikina (12 minutes) did not get much game action causing some on Knicks Twitter to blast the Knicks for not playing the youngsters more. But it is clear the Knicks right now value winning and developing a winning culture predicated on defense — part 3 of “The Plan” — more than playing their youngsters, whom can play at the point when they earn their playing time like Dotson did. PS: Taj Gibson got only 12 minutes also.

“We’re putting ourselves in a good position, the efforts great; these guys are fighting; we got down they came right back,” added coach Miller in the post game. “We did a lot of good things; there’s a lot of positives we can look at; we want to take the next step.”

Lowry vs Elfrid

Kyle Lowry filled up the boxscore for 26 points on 5-12, but 13-14 from the free throw line. It was an interesting matchup of Elfrid Payton vs Lowry — although Fred VanVleet is now Toronto’s main point guard and Elfrid played him much of the evening. Lowry came into his own as a point guard at age 25, the same age that Payton is now. And Payton looked every bit his equal last night (as well as VanVleet’s) — except for the jump shooting. Payton needs to hone his 3-pt shooting (his floaters in the lane are fine) to reach the next level but he is coming into his own as a point who can orchestrate and lead the team in the closing minutes, penetrate, hit the short jumper in the lane, and play a good defense.

More For Toronto

Fred VanVleet nagged the Knicks for his usual good-shooting game — 6-12 (3-7 from 3) for 16 points as did Nick Powell (6-11, 3-5 from 3 for 16 pts). And Serge Ibaka came off the bench for a strong 20 minutes (16 points on 6-11 as well).

The Boxscore

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