Toronto Raptors crushed New York Knicks with a terrific performance to bring an end to their unbeaten record under Mike Woodson.
The Knicks were looking for their sixth straight win under interim coach Woodson but the fluidity and strength of recent games vanished at the Air Canada Centre, with an explosive Bagnari helping Toronto to an 11-4 lead within minutes of the tip-off. The Italian set the pace for the high intensity Raptors, scoring from the three-point line and with two free-throws with 10:40 of the 1stquarter left.
That quarter must surely go down as the worst quarter of the Woodson era. Toronto were nine up (16-25), with DeRozan and Bagnari combining for 18 and Toronto shooting at 46% from the floor. Knicks were at 39% with Amar’e Stoudemire on five points, the highest of their quarter.
New York, missing Jared Jeffries due to his troublesome knee, allowed Toronto to increase their lead to 12 and then cut it back down to six with seven minutes of the half to go. Stoudemire, Knicks’ ray of sunshine throughout, put a superb block in in defence and then raced down court to make the layup.
Woodson’s side did manage to prevent Toronto from scoring a field goal for three minutes, pulling the deficit back to four at one point, but Bagnari brilliantly hit a three-pointer over Tyson Chandler for his 11th point of the match, with four minutes left of the half. James Johnson then took advantage of a Jeremy Lin stumble and turnover to drive to the rim to smash in.
Lin struggled here. At the height of Linsanity, it was the point guard who netted in the dying seconds for three to give the Knicks the win when these sides met in February. Here, though, he was booed by the Canadian crowd and, although his turnover count was at a respectable three, his general use of the ball was poor and he was only given 25 minutes on the court.
Both sides were poor offensively – and the Knicks were mostly dire defensively – but the Raptors were ahead at half-time despite hitting 34% of field goals (Knicks were hitting 36% at that point). Anthony – back to his sluggish worst, and this time Mike D’Antoni can’t be to blame – and Stoudemire combined for a measly 10, while Bagnari and DeRozan had 23 points between them.
And it was DeRozan that was beginning to run the show by the second half. A huge alley-oop took him to 20 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor. The Raptors went on a 10-2 run here, with the Knicks lacking in energy, particularly Carmelo, who made his fourth foul with five minutes left of the third quarter and was promptly replaced.
DeRozanity (too easy?) continued deep into the third quarter, the shooting guard hitting 8-for-13 from the floor, 8-from-9 free throws and 24 points as the Raptors took a 53-70 lead going into the final quarter.
The Raptors main man hit 30 points, smashing in after Gary Forbes had played it off the glass, and Forbes himself scored almost straight away after wasteful passing from the Knicks.
DeRozan finished on 30, limping off into the locker room after colliding with his own teammate, but the win was comfortable for Toronto. The only quarter where the Knicks even got close to matching Toronto (and managed to get above 20) was the fourth, although the Raptors, by then, were playing the game with ease.
The Knicks offense was poor, particularly from the three-point line where, if Novak were to be taken out of calculations, they wouldn’t have hit one all night. This was the first time Knicks had scored below 80 since December 28, 2011 when they faced Golden State.
Their defence, so impressive in recent games, looked loose here. Fatigue could have been a problem – eight games in 13 days must surely take its toll – so maybe the result can be moved on from. Maybe the outstanding Stoudemire overshadows the lacklustre Carmelo, or the waning Lin. Or maybe it will merely paper over the cracks.