Jeremy Lin scored 20 points in his best game as a Raptor to lead Toronto to a 128-92 rout of the lowly New York Knicks on Monday, a night that might have cost Kyle Lowry another couple of games.
Eight Raptors scored in double figures. Pascal Siakam had 19 points, Lowry had 15 points and eight assists, OG Anunoby had 14 points, Fred VanVleet chipped in with 12, Marc Gasol had 12 points to go with 11 rebounds and Norm Powell finished with 10 points for Toronto (50-21).
The Raptors were playing without star Kawhi Leonard, who sat out the second game of back-to-backs for load management.
Allonzo Trier had 22 points to top the Knicks (14-57).
Lowry had just returned after missing two games with a left ankle injury, but he injured his right ankle when New York’s Mitchell Robinson knocked him over from behind with 5:15 to play in the third. Lowry slapped the floor in pain before being helped up. The guard glared at New York’s bench before being helped to the locker room.
Robinson fouled out a couple of minutes later after playing just 14 minutes.
It was the kind of night that makes fans wish the playoffs would come already. The Raptors used their 20th different starting lineup of the season. But against the worst team in the league, Toronto’s offence still hummed like a well-oiled machine. The Raptors shot a sizzling 82.4 per cent in the first quarter, and their 73 points in the first half was a season high.
Toronto had compiled a 35-point lead in the third quarter and led 101-69 with one quarter to play.
The Raptors built their advantage to 38 points in the fourth, and coach Nick Nurse was able to go to his bench entirely in the last quarter. With a few minutes to play, the courtside seats at Scotiabank Arena were already virtually empty. Barely half the capacity crowd of 19,800 was still on hand to cheer the Raptors off the court at the final buzzer.
With Toronto securely in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, it can be tough to dig deep on such nights.
“It is a challenge,” Nurse said prior to tipoff. “I think you can look around the league, and it’s kind of going around a little bit. I think you’re seeing mixed results all over the place — bottom teams beating the very top teams — and it is a little bit difficult to focus and all of that kind of stuff. It hasn’t helped us that we’ve had so much movement in our roster as well.”
The Raptors were coming off a disappointing 110-107 loss in Detroit a day earlier — making it a 3-0 sweep by former coach Dwane Casey and his Pistons. Toronto is five and five in their last 10 games.
But despite the playoffs being around the corner, the Raptors roster still a revolving door of injuries and Leonard’s load management, Nurse said the team is not feeling any added pressure.
“I think even for the last 12 to 14 games, not really putting a ton of emphasis on the results, we want to play well … but I don’t think anybody can get caught up in results. I think the defending champions (Golden State) are five and five in their last 10 and I don’t think they’re pushing the panic button out there, right?” Nurse said.
The Knicks’ only lead was in the first two minutes of the game, and by the time VanVleet converted a three-point play with a minute left in the first quarter, the Raptors were up by 13 points. Toronto took a 38-29 advantage into the second.
The Raptors held the Knicks to 29 per cent shooting in the second and stretched their lead to 20 points on a VanVleet three-pointer late in the second. Anunoby’s three-pointer at the buzzer sent Toronto into the halftime break with a 73-54 advantage.
The Raptors play in Oklahoma City on Wednesday then host the Thunder on Friday. With 11 games to go in the regular season, they’re the only games against teams with winning records the Raptors have left.
© 2019 The Canadian Press