Knicks vs. Raptors (8pm ET Thursday, TNT)
The Knicks have lost five of their last seven games and their only victories were against the Jazz and the 76ers, dropping them to 20-22 in a tie for 10th in the East. Their most recent loss came Tuesday at the hands of the Thunder 128-122, as the lethal tandem of Durant and Westbrook combined for 74 points, 22 rebounds and 15 assists. It was all too much for a Carmelo-less Knicks team. Even if the Knicks miss the playoffs, this season has to be considered a huge success as they’ve already bested last season’s win total. Plus, first-round draft pick Kristaps Porzingis has silenced the boos by displaying a skillset that inspired Durant to call him a “unicorn,” and finds him in a two-man race with Kalr-Anthony Towns for Rookie of the Year honors.
Would you believe the Toronto Raptors have the fifth-best record in the NBA? Winners of nine in a row, the Raptors are 30-15 and are currently second pace in the East. Their last win came Tuesday against the Wizards as Washington point guard John Wall’s 18 points and 14 assists were not nearly enough to counter all star Kyle Lowry’s 29 points and Jonas Valanciunas’ 13 points and 12 rebounds. Lowry had a scare late in the game when he fell to the floor and hit his wrist after setting a pick. “I really thought it was worse than it was, but I’m fine,” said Lowry afterward. The team later tweeted that X-rays were negative.
Bulls vs. Lakers (10:30pm ET Thursday, TNT)
Coming off Monday’s 89-84 loss to Miami, the Chicago Bulls have dropped seven of their last 10 and are now 25-19, putting them fourth in the East. Against the Heat they got killed by poor shooting as Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose made seven of 21 for a combined 17 points. Looking over the stats for this 10-game slide, the Bulls are getting out-shot (45.7% to 42.4%), out-blocked (6.5 to 4.6), out-pick-pocketed (9.2 steals to 5.4), and out-passed (25.5 assists to 18.1) – their 48.6-to-44.5 rebounding advantage hasn’t been nearly enough to counter those deficiencies.
As for the Lakers, well, the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour continues to limp along. Riding a seven-game losing streak, the last defeat was at the hands of the Mavericks 92-90, ending with a Dirk Nowitzki jumper with 2.1 left on the clock. Kobe missed the game because of a sore shoulder and remains questionable for tonight. L.A. is now 9-38, just a game and a half ahead of the Sixers for the worst record in the league. Or, a game and a half behind the Sixers in the Ben Simmons Sweepstakes – it’s all about perspective.
Kobe recently made teammate Larry Nance Jr. sit on the floor and reportedly yelled at D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle for smiling following a loss, so at least the kids are having fun while they learn, right?