With Monday night’s game approaching the 75th anniversary of the first game played in the NBA – between the Knicks and the Toronto Husky in what was officially the BAA at the time – and serving as a rematch for the fighters, there was already a connection between the Toronto Raptors and the Knicks.
As the game began, the Knicks seemed intent on showing how far they had come — and the NBA — as they poured three-point field goals and threw their puddle to the delight of fans at Madison Square Garden, a far cry from the 68-66 they stole into the league in 1946.
But by the fourth quarter of the year, Knicks fans might have been wondering, Where did Ossie Shechtman go?
An early 15-point lead disappeared when the Knicks suddenly got stuck in the mud offensively, facing the reduced Raptors. With the Knicks all of a sudden, the Raptors took over and scored an impressive 113-104 win over the Knicks.
The Knicks turned the ball more than 20 times and Toronto had 21 quick break points compared to just three for the Knicks. The loss saw the Knicks drop to 5-2 on the season and fall out of number one.
Knicks went off the fire, hitting an 8 of 13 from behind the arc in the first quarter. And no one was hotter than Julius Randle, who scored 18 points while shooting 5 of 6 from the ground, including 4 of 5 from a three-point range. The Knicks earned eight points and extended it to as much as 15 in the second quarter.
“We lost the lead, and we were back again, they were the aggressors,” said Knicks coach Tom Tibodo. Basically the story of the game.
“It was really the middle of the second quarter where the match turned, and we were getting back on our heels, turning the ball around, giving them hope. In the third quarter, we had a practice run.”
Randall finished with just 22 points—and scored four after that in the first quarter in a 2-for-8 shootout. RJ Barrett carried the load again, this time finishing with 27 in a 9-for-13 shot from the ground. OG Anunoby was all around defensive and pouring in 36 points for Toronto.
But as they have done in previous games against fewer opponents – and the Raptors only qualified for that description because they were without Pascal Siakam and impressive rookie Scotty Barnes – the Knicks downplayed the opponent. The team’s two worst games early in the season were against Orlando at Madison Square Garden, their only loss, and a narrow win over the shortlisted New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
In the second quarter, Randle was back with just over six minutes left and he shot 0-3 with two turns, dribbling into corners as Anonobi, one of the best defenders in the league, gripped tightly with his every move.
It went on early in the second half as Randle dribbled twice, turned the ball over and tied the game up for the Raptors at 57. They then advanced for the first time since the opening minutes. The damage continued to build as the Raptors turned a 50-35 deficit with 3:56 left in the second quarter into an 85-74 lead with 3:37 left in the third—a 50-point blast in just over a 12-minute period.
Thibodeau began sifting through the bench trying to find a winning combination – or was ready to work as the team once again seemed to slack off at times. The selfless play that helped them achieve a record 5-1 entry entered the game in an insane procession of champion ball efforts.
Taj Gibson suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter and was unavailable in the second half. Thibodeau tried the Randle-Obi Toppin combination up front with the Raptors playing true centerless and it went nowhere. Then came rookie Jericho Sims and the Knicks were still out of the crowd at every turn.
Toronto had Jim Birch at 6-8 as the tallest player – the same size they announced free admission for anyone measuring that height in that first game in league history.