The New York Knicks’ annual showdowns with the Toronto Raptors will take plenty of fuel to go down in history as one of the NBA’s fiercest rivals. While it might not be enough to get the hate going full steam ahead, New York has plenty of reasons to head into their latest trip up north with a little more heat.
Sunday marks the fourth and final clash between the Knicks and their Atlantic Division rivals as the visitors look to end a three-game losing streak that actually began six days earlier with a loss to the same Raptors. A listless performance and heartthrob followed against Washington and Atlanta, with Friday’s 15-point loss to the Hawks causing the Knicks to squander an excellent first-half offensive performance.
Toronto, struggling on the cusp of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, failed to capitalize on that important win over the Knicks: They are also mired in a three-game losing streak after dropping all of their immediate follow-up games, including a 106 -104 heartbreakers against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
The Knicks will look to continue the road team’s success this year in matchup: Their own win in Ontario on Jan. 6 ended an 11-game losing streak in Canada dating back to 2016. Toronto, in turn, won both scheduled meetings at Madison Square Garden.
What: New York Knicks (25-22) @ Toronto Raptors (20-27)
Where from: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, AN
When/hour: Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, MSG/MSG Go
Who is preferred: New York -1.5
Keep an eye on: Isaiah Hartenstein
It’s certainly too early for a supposed last stand, but Hartenstein, who is a New York virgin, hasn’t exempted his name from appearing in trade proposals. The backup center has endured a self-proclaimed “up and down” season, with one active valley losing its minutes to second-grader Jericho Sims.
“Some things are out of my control, some things are under my control,” Hartenstein said two weeks earlier, per the New York Post’s Greg Joyce. “There were good parts and bad parts, but at the end of the day we do well as a team. That’s the most important part. There are things I can definitely do better than what I’m doing right now and that’s up to me.”
Up to his point, the Knicks have tried to use Hartenstein as a traditional center and color spacer rather than the all-around go-between he was in Los Angeles last season. If Hartenstein, signer to a two-year offseason free agent contract, has a future in New York, it could be now or never if he wants to prove it, especially with Mitchell Robinson out for the next three weeks.
Raptor to watch: OG Anunoby
As the Raptors’ postseason hopes near extinction … five games from the automatic six and two games from the play-in tournament that comes into play Sunday … many expect the team to have a full sale by Feb. 27 will announce. 9 Dealing Deadline. Anunoby is at the forefront of these discussions, and bettors believe he has a good chance of finding his way to Manhattan…at a price, of course.
Anunoby, who was ruled questionable for Sunday’s game due to an ankle injury, would reportedly cost a Donovan Mitchell-style haul, according to ESPN NBA insider Zach Lowe. The Knicks’ reluctance to make this deal is well documented, but they’ll likely do their due diligence anyway. Whether they’re perhaps saving their own name from a trade or getting closer to victory… Anunoby has struggled against the Knicks this season but is more than capable of scoring… Members of the New York frontcourt need him in their keep Sunday view line.
This season’s accomplishments have been defined by the Knicks’ ability to do business and win the games they should … especially when they’re away from Madison Square Garden for whatever reason. With a golden opportunity to steal a win from the reeling Raptors along the way, it shouldn’t be much to ask the Knicks to play their top game tonight, especially with a dangerously long schedule ahead.
Knicks 119, Raptors 107
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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