Studs and Duds: Knicks’ dominant 4th quarter leads to win over Toronto Raptors

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) defends during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

News broke yesterday that New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will be missing up to three months of action, sending fans into a frenzy. The big man’s defensive dominance was the best it’s ever been, and a game-time decision saw Immanuel Quickley also on the injury report for proper precautions. Despite these crucial absences, the Knicks were able to turn in a clutch performance en route to a 136–130 win over the Raptors.

Studs: The Knicks’ Terrific Trio

Following a tough outing versus the Boston Celtics, Julius Randle was a force to be reckoned with against the Toronto frontcourt. No matter who they put on him — Barnes, Siakim, Anunoby, or Poeltl — it was a long night for the Raptors defensively. Randle scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 34 points on 70 TS%. Excellent execution from Randle as he treated the mid-post like a part-time job, shooting 66% from the floor. 

RJ Barrett is back. Following migraines, Barrett was having a rough time with his efficiency and shot selection, but his tenacity never wavered. Barrett scored a season-high 27 points on 52% from the floor against the Toronto Raptors. Coming off a big game against Boston as well, RJ is averaging 25 points on 54% shooting from the floor over his last two contests.

Barrett is the key that opens the potential for how far the New York Knicks will go. RJ scored 12 points on 5/5 from the field in the 4th alone while taking the load away from Brunson and Randle. The growth of Barrett’s game on full display is how the Knicks get into that next gear, seen in the fourth quarter versus the Toronto Raptors. 

After rolling his ankle late in the fourth versus Boston, Jalen Brunson needed no time off yet took it slow and methodical against the Raptors. Brunson finished with 21 points and nine assists, but the seven turnovers came at the expense of an incredible pace the Knicks were running on Toronto.

With two big mid-range buckets in the fourth, as Brunson assisted in putting the game away for good, that fourth-quarter barrage from the Knicks was one of the best seen so far this season and an incredible testament to the fortitude of the New York Knicks. 

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Studs: The role players stepped up once again

In a game that seemed shorthanded, the New York Knicks’ “next man up” mentality was evident. An incredible variety is what separates good from great teams and names such as Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein were great in their extended minutes played. 

Grimes had a season-high 19 points again coming off of the bench in a role that he has much benefited from. Defenses aren’t too structured on game planning Grimes, so he has an incredible opportunity to get into a rhythm and proper touches alongside a scoring facilitator in Josh Hart. 

Josh Hart scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half alone. With seven rebounds and eight assists, Josh Hart is the perfect Swiss Army knife for the New York Knicks. Much like Donte Divincenzo, Hart just makes the winning plays that separate the Knicks and continues putting them in winning conversations. On this upcoming road trip, Josh Hart will play some of his best basketball of the season. 

Isaiah Hartenstein didn’t get the start, but his role as an enforcer was even better with extended minutes played. Scoring 11 points and eight rebounds on 62 TS%, Hartenstein’s abilities exist where he can stay in motion as well as give Randle room to work in the front court. An incredible dime to Grimes from the top of the key is the perfect example. The added variety opens the floor for the Knicks and allows them to play at a faster pace. 

Duds: Donte DiVincenzo struggling in the starting five

In a short list of cons in what was an incredible fourth quarter from the New York Knicks, Donte DiVincenzo has had himself a tough time finding open looks compared to playing a bench role. The observation is that defenses want Brunson to take a heavy load scoring if that means they lock down his backcourt partner.

Both Grimes and DiVincenzo haven’t found their rhythm as starters, but one thing Donte has done better is be more accepting of a lesser-scoring role while simultaneously facilitating and staying aggressive defensively, making the game easier for his teammates the best he can. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the Raptors

The Knicks played a fast-paced, high-scoring affair that saw them dominate, especially in the fourth quarter. The Knicks’ defense hasn’t been top-tier as of late, but being shorthanded two of your best defenders while shooting 60% from the floor, 58% from three, and 36 assists is a proper trade.

The execution by New York was stellar and set the tone for the upcoming road trip. Seeing this pace by New York after knowing the defense capable suggests the best has yet to come, and a perfect test resides Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.