All Aboard! Without Porzingis, Knicks’ Fade Train Begins in Toronto

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 7:39 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 7:39 PM UTC

The New York Knicks begin life without injured franchise player Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday night (7:30 ET) as they head north of the border to Toronto.

New York Knicks at Toronto RaptorsFree NBA Pick: RaptorsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s the lone 7:30 p.m. ET start on Thursday’s six-game NBA schedule as New York heads to Toronto for the final time this season. No national TV available, so you’ll have to settle for NBA League Pass.

It’s the third of four meetings overall between the teams this season. On Nov. 17, the Knicks visited the Raptors and were clobbered 107-84. Kyle Lowry had 22 points and 10 assists, while fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan also scored 22. Toronto was without Serge Ibaka. The Knicks shot just 33 percent from the field and star Kristaps Porzingis was 3-for-13 for 17 points.

Just five days later at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks beat the Raptors 108-100 to end an eight-game losing streak in the series. New York scorched Toronto by a 41-10 count in the third quarter that included a 28-0 run. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a career-high 38 points, while Porzingis had 22 points and 12 rebounds. Toronto, up 11 at the half, was led by 25 points from Lowry and 18 from DeRozan. No other Raptor had more than 11 and the other three starters totaled 20 points.

The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven in this series.

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Unicorn Goes Down

The Knicks (23-32 SU, 28-27 ATS) were somewhat in NBA purgatory this season. They weren’t outright tanking but weren’t really a legitimate contender to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs, either. Now the motivation for the rest of the season is clear: TANK!

That’s because Porzingis, the future of this franchise, unfortunately tore his ACL in Tuesday’s home loss vs. Milwaukee. It happened early in the second quarter when Porzingis landed on fellow All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo's foot after converting a dunk. Just a total shame as the “Unicorn” was one of the most entertaining players in the league to watch whether you backed the Knicks or not.

The 22-year-old was averaging 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and a league-high 2.4 blocks per game. That it happened this late in the 2017-18 season means that Porzingis misses at least the first few months of next season as well. The Knicks are 1-6 without Porzingis this year and have no alternative now but to lose out as much as possible to get as high a draft pick as possible.

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This team, this city, and your fans all stand behind you, KP. We know you will come back stronger than ever.

— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 7, 2018

To make matters worse, Hardaway Jr. left Tuesday's game after being kneed in the left shin – that’s the same area where he suffered a stress reaction earlier in the season and missed several games. X-rays were negative, but he could miss a while. On Wednesday, the Knicks dealt disgruntled center Willy Hernangomez, a long-time friend of Porzingis’, to the Hornets in exchange for forward Johnny O'Bryant and two second-round draft picks. New York could make other moves ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. The team is now focused on playing young guys like Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke – and, it goes without saying, losing.

The Raptors (37-16 SU, 29-24 ATS) are still very motivated as they are battling Boston for the East’s top seed – it’s going to be one of those two with the Cavaliers in a free-fall. My only concern about Toronto covering the spread here is it could be a mini-letdown game after the Raptors spanked the visiting Celtics on Tuesday, 111-91, for their third straight win. It was the team’s fifth win in a row at home, where it is an NBA-best 22-4 (15-11 ATS).

So on Thursday, no Porzingis, surely no Hardaway Jr., and perhaps no Enes Kanter (oral surgery) for the Knicks, who have to be collectively dejected in the wake of the Unicorn’s injury. If the Raptors played again Friday, I might be worried here but they don’t until Sunday. Take Toronto on your NBA pick -- and fade the Knicks going forward.

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