All 13 New York Knicks saw the floor in Tuesday night’s landmark road victory over the Toronto Raptors, as they took another step toward building the culture Derek Fisher envisions for the franchise.
All but one Knick found the scoring column, and even the one who didn’t, forward Lou Amundson, came up with a key steal that resulted in instant points for New York. It all boiled down to a nerve-wracking finish, where reserve guard Lance Thomas came through with a key bucket and four clutch free throws to close out the 111-109 win.
“We’re trying to build a team where every guy understands that they matter,” Derek explained. “The five minutes that Cleanthony (Early) played, the five minutes that Lou Amundson played, that makes a difference on the team. One day when we’re a really successful team and we’re in the postseason, five minutes really is the difference between winning and losing a big game in the playoffs. You have to build that trust in guys now, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Thomas logged 22 minutes against Toronto, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter, and he finished with 17 points while hitting all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
“He showed his heart, his grit and his mental toughness. He as an approach to playing the game and doing his job that really is kind of a catalyst to any success we have as a team,” Fisher said of Thomas. “He’s another guy who adds value to who we are and what we’re trying to do. He helped us win this game tonight.”
In the third quarter it appeared that the Knicks were in control as they stretched the lead to 13 points less than a minute into the quarter. Toronto was able to climb back into it by the end of the quarter, but Cleanthony Early hit a stunning 30-foot bank shot at the buzzer to knot the game at 85. Early finished the night making the most out of his time on the court as he only played for about 5 minutes and chipped in with 5 points.
D-Fish and the Knicks were able to regain their lead in the fourth on a triple from Langston Galloway with 8:43 remaining in the game. Galloway entered the night shooting 61.5 percent from downtown this season and continued his stellar long-range shooting on Tuesday night. He drained 2-of-3 attempts from three-point land and finished the game with 15 points, four boards and four assists off the bench.
Aside from a strong finish to the game, the Knicks also had a solid start to the contest to set the tone in an important Atlantic Division road game. New York ended the first quarter with a 24-17 lead, and Fisher was impressed with how his squad came out of the gates and took the crowd out of it early.
“[Getting off to a good start] is important on the road. On the road you can’t rely on the crowd to help you get back into it if you start out behind,” D-Fish said. “We’ve played uphill probably more at home than we have on the road, so that was really good tonight to have a solid first quarter.”
Robin Lopez was big for Fisher early in the game as he hit three of his five field goal attempts in the first quarter and also came down with three rebounds. Lopez finished the night with a solid line of 12 points, eight boards and a couple assists. He also proved to be a defensive force with four blocked shots in the contest.
After the game, Fisher reflected on the Knicks reliance in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers and how it helped the team prevail against the Raptors on Tuesday. The Knicks victory over the Raptors marked the second consecutive game where the Knicks were able to pull out a game that was tight down the stretch.
“I think surviving the one I missed the end of a couple days ago was probably good for the guys to develop a little bit of confidence and trust in themselves that in close games, when plays need to be made offensively and defensively, that they can make them,” Fisher explained.
Carmelo Anthony got off to a slow start with just two points in the first quarter, but the Knicks superstar went off for 17 in the second to give Fisher and the Knicks a 60-52 halftime lead. Melo led the Knicks in scoring when it was all said and done with 25 points on 10-for-23 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Porzingis saw his minute total go down last night compared to previous games due to the small-ball lineup Fisher rolled with in the fourth quarter, but still found a way to put together another impressive game in his young NBA career. The Latvian highlight-reel had another vicious putback dunk and finished the game eight points and six boards in 20 minutes of action.
After beginning the season with one of the 10 toughest schedules in the NBA to start the season, D-Fish and the Knicks have shown some encouraging signs in their .500 start. This year is the first time since 2012 that the Knicks have been at .500 this late into the season. Three road wins for Fisher and Co. came against three playoff teams from a year ago (Washington, Milwaukee and Toronto).
The Knicks will try to capture their fourth road win when they face the Charlotte Hornets (3-4) tonight to cap off its mini two-game road trip. Charlotte is coming off a 104-95 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, so they too will be on the second-leg of a back-to-back.
The game is slated to tipoff at 7 p.m. ET from the Time Warner Cable Arena and will be aired on MSG.