The New York Knicks pulled off a convincing 126-100 win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night in an emotional return to Madison Square Garden for former Knicks RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Julius Randle put up a triple-double while Jalen Brunson led the Knicks in scoring as New York cruised to victory on the backs of dominant performances from their two All-Stars.
Randle, Brunson Take Charge as Knicks Build Big Lead
Randle was clearly on a mission from the opening tip, forcing the issue early to rack up points and assists. He finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for just the second triple-double of his career. Brunson was equally aggressive, slicing up the Raptors defense all night on his way to a game-high 34 points on 13-19 shooting along with 5 rebounds.
The Knicks blitzed Toronto right out of the gates, jumping out to a 20-6 lead midway through the first quarter. They continued to pour it on in the second, opening up a 69-41 halftime lead behind Randle and Brunson’s combined 41 first-half points.
“We just tried to set the tone early,” Brunson said. “The emotions were obviously going to be high with RJ and IQ coming back. We wanted to take the crowd out of it early and keep things rolling.”
The Raptors simply had no answers for New York’s dynamic duo. Randle carved up Toronto inside and out, while Brunson lived in the paint with an array of crafty finishes. The Knicks’ two best players showed out when it mattered most, keying an onslaught that gave New York full command from start to finish.
Emotional Returns for Barrett, Quickley
As anticipated, Barrett and Quickley received loud ovations when they were introduced in their first game back at Madison Square Garden since being traded to Toronto last week. Both players spent their first 3+ NBA seasons with the Knicks and had developed strong connections with the New York fanbase.
The emotional returns seemed to get the best of the young wings early. Barrett missed his first six shots while Quickley committed three first-quarter turnovers. They appeared to settle in during a more competitive second half, with Barrett finishing with 19 points on 8-20 shooting and Quickley adding 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists off the bench.
“It was amazing being back,” Barrett said. “I can’t really put it into words. It felt like being home again even though now I’m on the Toronto side. I appreciate the fans so, so much.”
Quickley admitted to getting a bit teary-eyed when his name was announced pregame. “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry,” he said. “There’s just so many memories here at the Garden with the best fans in the world.”
Knicks Newcomers Make Impact
While Randle and Brunson led the show, New York’s other midseason acquisitions made solid contributions as well.
Josh Hart, added from Portland at the trade deadline, delivered several hustle plays in extended second-half minutes. He finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Cam Reddish, sent to the Knicks by the Lakers as part of the deal for Quickley, poured in 15 points. And former Raptor Svi Mykhailiuk, acquired from Toronto as a salary match for Barrett, hit three triples to help space the floor when the game got out of hand.
“All our new guys have fit right in,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There’s a spirit of togetherness with this group. They play hard and play for each other.”
Raptors Struggling Since Shakeup
While the Knicks seem to be rolling with their revamped roster, Toronto has sputtered. The Raptors are now 2-5 since dealing Barrett and Quickley for veteran help. Besides losing their two former lottery picks, Toronto also gave up key role players in Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr. in those deals with New York and San Antonio.
Star wing Pascal Siakam said the team is still finding itself amidst all the change. “We’re trying to figure things out,” he said. “It’s been a lot for everybody to adjust to. I know we have the right mentality and work ethic, so we’ll get there.”
Toronto now heads to Boston looking to bounce back against the #1 seed Celtics. “Tonight didn’t go as we planned,” said coach Nick Nurse. “We know we’re better than what we showed. We’ll learn from this, turn the page and get after it on Monday.”
New York will try to keep things rolling on Tuesday against the surging Cleveland Cavaliers. Picked by most experts to finish near the bottom of the East, the young Knicks now find themselves battling for home court advantage in the playoffs. They sit just 1 game behind Cleveland for 4th place in the conference.
“We’re locked in and focused every day,” Thibodeau said. “We love the character and toughness of this group. They play together, give you everything they have and continue to improve.”
With strong team chemistry and All-Stars Randle and Brunson playing the best basketball of their careers, the Knicks look poised to keep making noise in the East playoff race as the second half of the season unfolds.
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