TORONTO — David Fizdale had no interest in discussing the blockbuster Jimmy Butler trade to the 76ers and the ramifications for the Knicks early Saturday afternoon. He had other problems on his mind.
“This team that we’re playing [today] that’s so skilled, watching the film, I haven’t even had time to process that,” the Knicks coach said with a laugh. “I can’t think about that right now.”
He knew what was in store for his young team at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto against the best-in-the-NBA Raptors — the kind of deep, talented, two-way group Fizdale hopes to coach one day in New York. The Knicks got their first up-close look at the new and improved Raptors with imported star Kawhi Leonard, and it went as well as could be expected.
In this season when development is the mission statement — not necessarily wins — this was another valuable, if tough-to-take, learning experience for the young Knicks, playing the Raptors even for large stretches of the first half of Saturday afternoon’s 128-112 loss north of the border before getting overwhelmed over the final two quarters.
As has been the case in all of their losses but one — the ugly one-sided setback to the Heat — the Knicks competed valiantly but lacked the firepower to be a true threat and tied their season high for points allowed. The Raptors toyed with them at times, turning it on when needed, and blew the game open by closing the third quarter on a 31-12 run to remain unbeaten at home (7-0).
Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his recent scoring rampage with 27 points, and Enes Kanter added a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds off the bench. Rookie Kevin Knox, in his third game back after missing the previous seven with a sprained ankle, looked his best since returning and added 12 points.
A few other young Knicks, such as Alonzo Trier and Frank Ntilikina, struggled. Trier, the impressive undrafted rookie, was held without a made field goal until the final minutes, and Ntilikina’s shooting struggles continued with a 2-for-8 performance.
Even with Leonard relatively quiet on the offensive end, notching 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, the second half was distinctly one-sided. Pascal Siakam, the long-armed, versatile, third-year forward, did the most damage, sinking six 3-pointers to score a season-high 23 points, and five other Raptors reached double figures. Toronto torched the Knicks from deep, making 14-of-35 attempts, as Fizdale’s team lost for the third time in four games and fell to 2-5 on the road.
The Knicks (4-9) started well, particularly on the defensive end, limiting the Raptors (12-1) to a 25-point first quarter and 42 percent shooting from the field. The Knicks made just 34 percent of their shots, however, and couldn’t take advantage. Once the Raptors found the range, it led to a healthy 64-53 edge by halftime.
Hardaway was the one Knick to have it going in the opening stanza, with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while the other Knicks starters — Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Noah Vonleh and Damyean Dotson — were a combined 3-of-18 from the field.