Nova Knicks & a Kentucky Wildcat Punch Out Raptors. NY 119 Toronto 106

Like the video arcade game Punch-Out!!!, the Knicks faced a new and more powerful opponent than the night before — this one the long and athletic Toronto Raptors — but figured a way to knock them out, 119-106 in Toronto on a Friday night.

The Villanova Trio took over — Josh Hart turning a tight game in the 3rd with 15 straight points — repeat, 15 straight points — for the Knicks. Then Donte DiVincenzo — the Big Ragu — took it from there with 3 after 3 after 3 in the 4th — he went 7 for 10 on the night from 3 — and the Knicks rolled to an easy win.

Jalen Brunson orchestrated, and Kentucky cat Julius Randle took it to the Raptors down low to draw the defense then kick out to the likes of DiVincenzo sharpshooting from the outside.

“They hit us early by pushing the ball,” said Coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought we adjusted well. Once we got our defense going, I loved the way we played offensively. I thought we really shared the ball; made plays for each other, and really played well as a team. They’re a tough team — they’re athletic, they’re long, they’re quick. But we had a number of good performances. Our bench was terrific. We got good solid performances from everybody.”

NY improves to 12-7; Toronto drops to 9-11. NY was once again playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back — their 5th this year already.

1. Toronto LONG and Athletic

In the Punch-Out!!! game, the opponents in order were:

  • Glass Joe
  • Piston Hurricane
  • Bald Bull
  • Kid Quick
  • Pizza Pasta
  • Mr. Sandman

Each fighter had a different set of strengths and different weaknesses. If you used enough quarters and played enough times over a series of weeks and months, you could get to Mr. Sandman, almost impossible to beat.

The Raptors are somewhere down that list in level of difficulty — where the later opponents are better and better. The Raptors come at you with Lean and LONG athleticism.

The front court has 6’8 Pascal Siakam and 6’7 OG Anunoby. The skilled 7-footer Jakob Poeltl is at center. The 6’8 Scottie Barnes is at shooting guard. And then you have 6’9 Chris Boucher, 6’9 Jalen McDaniels, and 6’8 Precious Achiuwa as first 3 guys off the bench.

All athletic. All active. All ripping down rebounds.

The Knicks came into the game as the #1 team in the NBA in rebounds — but Toronto out-rebounded them, 48-43.

All night long, Toronto kept getting second chances — sometimes on serendipity as a 3-ball bounced out on a long rebound to a Toronto player — but often also on active plays inside.

2. Tied at Half — Knicks Take Control to Start 3rd

Maybe the Knicks of a few years ago would have succumbed to that athleticism. But these Knicks are second to no one and would not have it. They banged back.

Jalen Brunson did his thing, RJ Barrett was aggressive to the rim, and Julius Randle played a Very physical game against Pascal Siakam inside. The game was tied at the half, 57-57 — and then to start the 3rd, NY started to take control.

The Knicks battled better on the boards in the 2nd half, and Randle upped the tempo by bullying inside against Siakam and whoever Toronto threw at him.

Randle started the quarter with a jumper, followed by a Quentin Grimes deuce, and a Jalen Brunson 4-point play (a 3 and one) gave NY a 64-59 lead.

Grimes free throws and a Mitchell Robinson dunk off a Grimes feed put NY up 10, 71-61. A Randle dunk off an RJ Barrett feed gave NY a 73-63 lead.

3. Hart Scores 15 Straight Points

And then Josh Hart took over.

NY was up 73-67, when Hart:

  • Hit a jumper,
  • Hit a 3 off a Randle feed,
  • Hit a drive,
  • Hit a 3 off a Randle feed,
  • Hit a jumper off a Randle feed,
  • Hit a 3 off a Quickley feed — NY 88 Toronto 75 with 34 seconds left in the 3rd.

Julius Randle was a key to all of it — drawing the defense — kicking it out. All of it despite him being questionable before game time — in the back-to-back — with a sore knee.

“Julius Randle made some big passes whether off the dribble leading to penetrate and kicks or out of the high and low post — along with recognizing and passing out of a double which led to open 3’s and good looks,” observed NBA Analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “Make the game easier for others and the game becomes easier for you.”

4. Randle Drives; DiVincenzo Sharpshoots from 3

And then Randle and team did the same for Donte DiVincenzo, who took over the scoring in the 4th — hitting 4 (four) 3 pointers on 5 attempts.

  • DiVincenzo hit a 3 with 10:54 left off a Barrett feed, NY 93-79,
  • DiVincenzo missed a 3 with 10:30 left,
  • DiVincenzo hit a 3 with 7:39 left off a Brunson feed, NY 101-89,
  • DiVincenzo hit a 3 with 4:32 left off a Randle feed, NY 112-93,
  • DiVincenzo hit a 3 with 1:43 left off a Brunson feed, NY 117-101. Ballgame.

5. NY Killed Toronto from 3

Toronto sacrifices guard play for all that 6’8 front court athleticism. Dennis Schroeder played 37 minutes at the point and had 10 pts and 9 assists but he isn’t a shooter — he was 1-6 from 3.

Gary Trent Jr came off the bench but was held in check by QGrimes and the Knick guards — he only scored 4 pts on 2-6 shooting in 23 minutes.

Toronto was only 6-32 from 3 (18 pct) while NY was 16-36 (44 pct) — and that was a key to the game. Toronto’s passing was not great, while the Knicks passed passed passed the ball, driving it in, kicking it out, and spraying it all evening to open up 3’s.

6. The Scoring

  • DiVincenzo finished 7-10 from the floor — all from 3 — for 21 points.
  • Hart finished 7-11 from the floor (3-4 from 3) for 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block.
  • Randle had 20 pts (on 8-15 shooting), 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and a +15.
  • Brunson had 22 pts on 9-21 shooting, 8 assists and a +15.
  • RJ Barrett, playing in his native Toronto with his parents in the stands, scored 15 points on 6-18 shooting (1-6 from 3; 2-3 in free throws).
  • Immanuel Quickley had 10 points and a +16 off the bench — as he was on the court at start of the 4th.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein had 8 rebounds and a block in 16 minutes.

For Toronto:

  • Scottie Barnes had 29 pts on 13-19 shooting with 9 rebounds,
  • Pascal Siakam had 21 pts on 7-16 shooting and 8 rebounds,
  • Annunoby had 9 pts,
  • Poeltl had 12 pts and 12 rebounds,
  • Achiuwa had 8 pts and 6 rebounds, and
  • Bouncher had 11 pts and 3 rebounds.

The Boxscore

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