The Toronto Raptors are on the board, earning their first win of the season with a 100-83 victory over the New York Knicks.
Fred VanVleet led the way with 25 points and seven assists, while Kyle Lowry added 20 points and seven rebounds. Shuffled into the starting lineup, Norman Powell made the most of his minutes, chipping in 17 points.
The Knicks were led by 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Julius Randle. Kevin Knox added 16, Elfrid Payton 14 and RJ Barrett 12.
Here are some takeaways from the game…
1. Lowry and VanVleet lead fourth quarter
With the first three quarters remaining close as both teams turned up the heat defensively, the Raptors pulled away late behind Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, plus some zone defence, which wreaked havoc for the Knicks offence as the Raptors forced turnovers and created fastbreak opportunities.
Lowry called this game a must-win and he brought that trademark intensity down the stretch, barking at the Knicks bench and making hustle plays. He sparked the Raptors alongside a bench unit featuring Terence Davis, Yuta Watanabe, Stanley Johnson and Alex Len, and ensured they wouldn't surrender another double-digit lead.
BONJOUR! pic.twitter.com/lgxmQLi4Y1- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2021
VanVleet buried two early 3s in the fourth that forced a Knicks timeout and put the Raptors in front by 14. They went on to win the fourth quarter 29-19 to seal the win.
Don't switch on me, I got big plans pic.twitter.com/2Ij87sWsAn- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2021
2. Low scoring slugfest
This game had an old school Eastern Conference vibe to it with both teams playing high-level defence, with buckets hard to come by as neither the Raptors nor Knicks cracked 30 points in all four quarters.
Toronto has yet to find its groove moving the ball, often settling for 3s instead. The Raptors did make 17 triples on the night but put up 52 attempts from deep.
Meanwhile, the Knicks were ice cold from beyond the arc, shooting just 3-for-35. Barrett, Payton and Reggie Bullock combined to go 0-for-19.
The Knicks' starters went 0-23 on 3-pointers tonight.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2021
That is the most misses without a make by a starting 5 all-time. pic.twitter.com/iz2ucgJpbj
3. Siakam sits
Pascal Siakam did not suit up for the Raptors for disciplinary reasons, according to a report by Shams Charania of the Athletic.
Siakam fouled out of Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers with about 25 seconds left and walked off the court to the locker room. After the game, coach Nick Nurse said he would "address it when I get back to the locker room."
4. Nurse tinkers with new lineups
Toronto went 10 deep against the Knicks as it tried to find scoring in Siakam's absence, with Johnson, Len and Davis all seeing minutes.
Powell made the most of his opportunity in the starting lineup in place of Siakam, with an energetic performance, scoring seven of his 17 points in the first quarter.
Powell was a game-high plus-28 as a starter.
PUNCHED 😤- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2021
by @npowell2404 pic.twitter.com/qaoKyozfGM
5. Alex Len ... stretch big?
Len, a career 33.3 percent 3-point shooter, is showing signs of improvement from beyond the arc. He gave the Raptors offence another dimension as he let it fly with confidence, going 3-for-3 from the perimeter.
All of his triples came in the third quarter where he scored all of his 11 points for the game, which helped give the Raptors a seven-point lead heading into the fourth.
Big fella got range 👀 pic.twitter.com/SU7BNJqGu3- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2021
6. What's next?
The Raptors will play their first game of the New Year on Jan. 2 when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 p.m. E.T. on Sportsnet.
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