Knicks riding rare high ahead of trip to Toronto
The New York Knicks scored a dramatic 124-123 win over LeBron James and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, which shows that there can be highlights even in the most dismal of seasons.
The Knicks, who have the worst record in the league at 14-56, will try to improve on that rare success Monday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors, the NBA's second-best team at 49-21.
The Raptors, who easily handled the Lakers on Thursday night, are coming off a 110-107 loss on the road to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
The Raptors will be facing a Knicks team on a high after Mario Hezonja blocked a shot by James with 2.3 remaining to seal the win. The Knicks rallied from an 11-point deficit with 3:45 to play to end an eight-game losing streak.
"They were pumped," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "All of them were pumped for Mario, since he has been going through his ups and downs.
Lance Thomas, the longest-tenured Knick, is familiar with the way the season is ending but said there is a difference this time.
"Right now we're building,"' Thomas told the New York Post. "We're trying to keep our guys fighting, building a culture and having guys finish the season the right way.
"This is the first season since I've been a Knick where everyone's been completely focused on the season. What we're doing is definitely working... from a team standpoint. I'm definitely looking forward to the future."
That has not always been the case, according to Thomas.
"There's been instances where the losing takes a toll on certain guys,"Thomas said. "With this team here, obviously the record isn't what we want it to be, but the morale is high."
Fizdale said Dennis Smith Jr. (sore back) and Noah Vonleh (sprained ankle) are day-to-day.
Meanwhile, the Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who missed 12 games with a thumb injury, scored 17 points in his return. But that was not enough against the Pistons, whose coach, Dwane Casey, was fired by the Raptors at the end of last season. The Pistons swept the three-game series with the Raptors for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
The Pistons outscored the Raptors 32-23 in the fourth quarter. Toronto has lost four of its past seven games.
With Kyle Lowry out for the second straight game with a sprained left ankle and questionable for Monday, Jeremy Lin started at point guard Sunday with VanVleet coming in off the bench.
"What do we miss when we don't have Fred out there? We miss a pretty solid shooter, we miss an offense organizer, we miss a good communicator on D, and one of my favorite things is he seems to be a bit of a bail-out bucket-maker," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "When things aren't going well in the offense or when the shot clock's running late, he can fill in a few of those buckets for us, too."
Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and had 10 rebounds Sunday, but he has not been playing both ends of back-to-back games this season.
Serge Ibaka will not play Monday as he completes his three-game suspension for fighting in Monday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Raptors have won both games against the Knicks this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 18, 2019