Derek Fisher’s shorthanded New York Knicks crossed paths with the hottest team in the NBA on Thursday night.
The Toronto Raptors put their NBA leading nine-game win streak on the line and made it 10 against Fish’s squad. Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Jose Calderon weren’t available to help break the streak in the 103-93 loss.
Melo missed his second straight game with a knee injury, Calderon was sidelined with a groin injury and Porzingis, who is battling an illness, was determined to be too sick to play after the pregame shoot around. But D-Fish wasn’t using the absence of two of his top players as an excuse for the defeat.
“We didn’t do enough things to win regardless of who suits up,” Fisher said. “Simple things, we missed free throws again tonight. We’ve been a great free throw-shooting team all season; couldn’t have the focus necessary to make those free throws. Offensive rebounding again hurt us a little bit. We had our chances; we couldn’t capitalize.”
Coming into the game, New York led the NBA with an 81.3 percent success rate from the free throw line, but last night it was only able to convert 50 percent of its 20 attempts.
With Calderon out, Sasha Vujacic and Jerian Grant had to step up and they did so admirably. They both finished with 13 points and combined for 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. After the game, Fisher complimented his guys for stepping up despite coming up short against a talented team like Toronto in the end.
“Every minute’s an opportunity for a guy to prove to himself and his teammates that he can do things the right way in order to help us win. It’s good for guys even in unfortunate situations to get opportunities,” Fisher said. “Some guys had that tonight and honestly I thought we fought hard but we could have been better. We could have won this game and that’s what we need to take away from it.”
The Knicks matched the Raptors in scoring in the third and fourth quarters, playing to an even 50-50 draw in the second half. But that just wasn’t enough to overcome a 10-point first-half deficit.
Aaron Afflalo led the team in scoring with 20 points to go along with two rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. Langston Galloway got the start managed a productive game against a talented Raptors backcourt. He racked up 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 31 minutes.
The other starters, Kyle O’Quinn, Lance Thomas and Robin Lopez couldn’t get much going. O’Quinn and Thomas combined for 15 points and seven boards while Lopez finished with seven points and eight rebounds. The trio of forwards did combine to block four shots in the contest.
Other than the good efforts from Vujacic and Grant, the rest of the reserves had off-nights for the most part. Derrick Williams saw his hot streak of back-to-back 19-point games come to an end as he had six points, five rebounds and two assists in 27 minute. Kevin Seraphin only scored four points on the night to go along with a rebound and an assist in 15 minutes of action.
Fisher and the Knicks (22-26) will face off against the Phoenix Suns tonight (14-33) and the Golden State Warriors (42-3) on Sunday. The Suns come into tonight having lost eight of their last nine games so D-Fish will look to get his group refocused and back on track against Phoenix before a tough matchup against the Warriors to close out the weekend.
Golden State, led by Steph Curry, has the best record in the NBA and the Knicks will have to play their best in order to come away with a big win against an elite team.
Tonight’s game against the Suns and Sunday’s tilt against the Warriors will tipoff at 7:30 EST from Madison Square Garden. Both games will be aired on MSG.