The Toronto Raptors are nearly whole again, and they hope that translates into a second consecutive victory Sunday afternoon when they host the New York Knicks.
As part of the province of Ontario’s new coronavirus restrictions, the Raptors announced they would not be selling tickets to the public for the game. Instead, their 1,000 people allowed in the arena for the next three weeks will be made up of team staff and players’ friends and family.
The Raptors, who had 10 players in health and safety protocol a week ago, had their regulars back Friday night, with the exception of Scottie Barnes (knee tendinitis). They defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 116-108.
“It was a good result obviously for us. It wasn’t easy out there, as you could see there’s some conditioning issues and there’s just some movement issues as well,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “Good to sneak one.”
Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby scored 31 points and 26 points, respectively, in their first game back from protocol. Pascal Siakam had 25 points and matched his career best with 19 rebounds in his second game back.
The Knicks were not as healthy. Without Julius Randle (health and safety protocol) and Kemba Walker (knee), the Knicks had a three-game winning streak end Friday with a 95-80 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
“Without Kemba and (with) Julius out, it was a little different,” said RJ Barrett, who had 26 points and seven rebounds. “But the guys played hard.
“It’s different not having Julius there. You tend to rely on him — 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night. We’re going to have to make up for that.”
It was the Knicks’ first game this season without Randle, who also will miss Sunday’s game. His absence provided an opportunity for Obi Toppin, who did not respond reasonably well with five points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledged that Toppin did not have the same impact that he does when he is with the second unit.
“The second unit, those guys play well together,” Thibodeau said. “The big part of it is him running the floor. When you have Alec (Burks), Derrick (Rose) and (Immanuel) Quickley throwing the ball ahead and getting those easy buckets, it gets you into a rhythm and easy scores.
“It’s his first game starting; you have to be ready to go. That intensity, you can’t ease into the game. You (have) got to go.”
Walker was a late scratch with a sore knee when Thibodeau said he “didn’t feel right” warming up.
Rookie Miles McBride replaced Walker for his first career start and had seven points in 24 minutes.
In Toronto, Khem Birch, Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie returned to the Raptors’ lineup in the win over the Clippers.
Barnes, however, remained on the sidelines despite clearing protocol on Thursday because of tendinitis in his right knee.
“I’m as surprised as you guys are,” Nurse said. “It seems kind of strange that we played a lot, and he only went out because of protocols and had a lot of time off. We’ll just have to work him back in, I guess.”
As Sunday’s game will be, Friday’s game was played in a nearly empty arena.
“It was more normal than not, to be honest with you,” VanVleet said. “I didn’t even think about it until we were just talking about it in the locker room. So I don’t know the numbers, but I would say we probably played just as much if not more fanless basketball than we have in a packed stadium, so it is what it is.”
–Field Level Media