Raptors, Knicks on opposite ends of spectrum
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TORONTO -- The New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors will enter their game Thursday night at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.
The Raptors are coming off a 111-91 blowout win over the first-place Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre and now are one game behind them in the Eastern Conference.
"I just like the way we came out and set the tone on both ends of the floor," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who did not need to play his starters in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row.
The Knicks, meanwhile, lost forward Kristaps Porzingis for the season when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Tuesday night early in the second quarter of a 103-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Porzingis dunked on Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and as he came down, he stepped on Antetokounmpo's foot and his ankle buckled. He had 10 points and the Knicks led 31-30 at the time of his injury.
"I think when K.P. went down, it kind of deflated us some," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "He is a big part of the things we do. No one is going to feel sorry for you when your guys are out, so you have to step it up."
The Knicks (23-32) have lost four games in a row and seven of their past nine and are five games removed from a playoff spot.
The injury to Porzingis adds to New York's list that includes guard Ron Baker (right shoulder surgery) and center Enes Kanter (oral surgery). Both are listed as out by the team with Baker undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday.
Kanter had 19 points and 16 rebounds on Tuesday.
"More than a basketball player, he's my brother," Kanter said of Porzingis. "I don't want to see anyone going down like that hurting his knee. He's about to be an All-Star. I'm just going to pray for him tonight. He is the most important part of our family."
Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. will be available Thursday after leaving the game on Tuesday during the fourth quarter.
The Knicks also traded disgruntled center Willy Hernangomez on Wednesday to the Charlotte Hornets for two second-round draft picks (2020, 2021) and little-used forward Johnny O'Bryant.
The teams have split the first two of their four scheduled meetings this season.
The Raptors won 107-84 on Nov. 17 at the ACC when the Knicks shot 33 percent from the field.
The Knicks went on a 28-0 run five days later to defeat the Raptors 108-100 at Madison Square Garden. Hardaway scored a career-best 38 points in the game.
The Raptors (37-16) led the surprisingly sluggish Celtics by as many as 29 points on Tuesday. Toronto has the best home record in the NBA at 22-4.
"I thought when you play as hard and the intensity as we did; it kind of sets the tone and gives you a rhythm offensively," Casey said after the game Tuesday. "You know, we had that one tough stretch there, but once we got our rhythm and started moving the ball, getting from side to side, because they're one of the best defensive teams in the league, their length, but our ball movement trumped them. We got the ball moving a little bit, but again, it came from our defensive intensity."
Once again, the Raptors' bench was productive with C.J. Miles scoring 20 points, Delon Wright 14 and Fred VanVleet 10.
Starting point guard Kyle Lowry led the scoring with 23 points eight rebounds and four assists, but when asked about what kind of message was sent by the win, answered: "Nothing, it's one game."
"We did our job," he said. "The second unit played extremely well in the second quarter and got us the lead. We played well, it's one game."
Despite the loss of Porzingis, Casey said the Knicks still have some weapons that his team must respect.
"I don't get caught up in records, last game," he said after practice on Wednesday. "I know who they have and the matchups, the history of the matchups that we have, the problems and the strengths we have against them, too. My whole concern now is the New York Knicks and how we're going to approach the game."
Updated February 7, 2018