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Blowout win over Knicks give Raptors time to play

Blowout win over Knicks give Raptors time to play
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It is a relatively minuscule sample size and the calibre of the opposition has to be taken into consideration, but the Raptors got a look at a rather intriguing lineup in New York on Thursday night.

In part out of necessity because two big wings were unavailable, the Raptors ran out their biggest possible frontcourt – Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam – for about six minutes of another easy victory, this one 117-92 over the New York Knicks.

Pascal Siakam was a force with 31 points in the Raptors’ win over the Knicks on Thursday night at MSG.  (Nathaniel S. Butler / Getty Images)

Coach Nick Nurse had wanted to see Gasol and Ibaka together — the absence of Kawhi Leonard (rest) and OG Anunoby (concussion symptoms) made it more possible — and he had to like what he saw in the late stages of the second half.

Playing a bit of zone defence with the three bigs, and with Siakam drilling a three-pointer on the first possession with that group off an Ibaka kick-out pass, Toronto went on a 7-2 run in less than four minutes that helped them to a 55-36 halftime lead.

The same big frontcourt got a few more minutes at the end of the third quarter, before the fourth quarter was contested mainly by deep-bench players. It’s part of Nurse’s plan to experiment at least a little bit each game for the rest of the regular season with the Raptors all but locked into second place in the Eastern Conference.

“There’s a few things I want to look at, a few lineups that we want to see,” he said earlier this week. “Not sure how much we’ll see them.”

Much like Tuesday’s win over the Bulls, the Raptors didn’t have to work their starters too much against the Knicks — who, at 14-61, are headed for the worst regular-season record in franchise history.

Siakam and Fred VanVleet each topped the 30-minute level, but Kyle Lowry played only 25, Gasol 23 and Danny Green 20. Siakam finished with 31 points to lead Toronto, Ibaka had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Green nailed five three-pointers on his 15-point night.
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