Before their game against the Toronto Raptors, New York coach Isiah Thomas used a construction metaphor to speak about his team. Before it ended, he had taken out two of the Knicks’ cornerstones.
After they were unable to keep up with Toronto’s forward-centre Chris Bosh – who dominated the night with 40 points and 11 rebounds – Thomas sent power forward Zach Randolph and centre Eddy Curry to the bench. The Raptors toppled the Knicks 99-90.
“I thought (Zach) and Eddy both were just having problems with the foot speed of Toronto tonight and it was just a tough game to match up particularly for those two,” Thomas said. “I just tried to go with quicker people and try to get us back in the game.”
Bosh took the ball to the basket from the start and finished two points shy of his career high.
“We know that their two bigs in the beginning of the game, we had an advantage over them with our quickness moving laterally and up and down the court,” Bosh said. “So I just wanted to kind of exploit that and get going a little early.”
The Raptors led by double digits for nearly the entire second half of their second straight victory. Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker each scored 13 points for Toronto, while Jose Calderon finished with nine points and eight assists.
“We wanted to put the pressure on them,” Bosh said. “We knew that the crowd wasn’t going to be that friendly if we jumped on them quick and that’s kind of what happened.”
Randolph was benched the final 31-plus minutes and appeared frustrated with Thomas when he was removed for good. Randolph was yanked 20 seconds after committing an offensive foul with 7:35 remaining in the first half.
“Any player would get upset because they want to play,” Randolph said. “I want to play. I love playing. I want to be out there.”
Not that the Knicks were doing much with Randolph in there, anyway. They trailed the final 45½ minutes and lost for the ninth time in 10 games, falling to 0-2 on a four-game homestand that Thomas said before the game was important for his last-place team.
New York has dropped five straight at home. The Knicks were booed frequently in the second half, with the “Fire Isiah!” chants heating up late in the third quarter.
Thomas’ off-season acquisition of Randolph has sometimes seemed confusing – including to Randolph – because he and Curry have rarely looked comfortable with the pairing. That wasn’t a problem Friday, because the only place they spent much time together was on the sideline.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated, just like we all are frustrated, and the one thing I know about him is that he wants to play,” Thomas said of Randolph. “Every player wants to play. No one likes to be taken out of the game. And so we’ll just move on.”
Randolph played 10 minutes and said he was “a little frustrated” about not going back in. Curry stuck around for 15, finished with six points and two rebounds.
“I don’t know what happened with that,” Curry said of the Randolph-Thomas incident. “It was a tough night at the office for Zach. He’ll cool off and it’ll be another day tomorrow.”
Elsewhere in the NBA, it was: Bulls 100 76ers 97, Celtics 86 Nets 77, Wizards 102 Hawks 98, Hornets 114 Heat 88, Cavaliers 113 Bobcats 106, Rockets 113 Timberwolves 82, Nuggets 113 Magic 103; Mavericks 90 Supersonics 70; Warriors 116 Grizzlies 104 and Lakers 110 Bucks 105.
At New York, Jamal Crawford scored 27 points for the Knicks and reserve Nate Robinson had 24. Randolph and fellow starting forward Quentin Richardson were both scoreless.
Randolph’s name surfaced in trade rumours this week, though Thomas has called all his players “untouchable.” Then again, he seemed to hedge on another statement earlier Friday.
Ten days after predicting he would be here to see the Knicks win a championship with some of these players, Thomas made a pre-game construction worker analogy, speaking as if he’d be gone before the Knicks are winners again.
“We need to build a culture here. We need to build a foundation. That’s our job, that’s this group’s job,” Thomas said. “I’ve tried to put it in terms, I’ve told them we’re kind of the concrete layers, we’re the cement layers. When you move into your house, the guy who poured the concrete never really gets a chance to live in that beautiful house that he built. And our job right now is to make sure that we lay the concrete and we lay it correctly.”
The Knicks were indeed brick layers early, missing eight of their first 10 shots and falling behind 15-4 on a layup by Bosh, who scored 13 points in the first quarter. He had two more layups in the final 46 seconds of the period, giving Toronto a 27-17 lead.
“He took the ball to the basket strong and got to the free throw line,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said.
Bosh had 10 more points in the second quarter and the Raptors led 55-46 at halftime.
Bulls 100 76ers 97
At Philadelphia, Andres Nocioni scored 26 points, Joe Smith added 19 and the Chicago Bulls rallied to beat the reeling 76ers.
Celtics 86 Nets 77
At East Rutherford, N.J., Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce added 18 points and the Boston Celtics beat the New Jersey Nets for their 30th win of the season.
Wizards 102 Hawks 98
At Atlanta, the Hawks fell in overtime as Antawn Jamison scored 22 points and Caron Butler added 21 to lead the Washington Wizards to a victory.
Hornets 114 Heat 88
At New Orleans, Bobby Jackson made a career-high seven three-pointers and finished with 25 points, helping the Hornets roll to a 114-88 victory over the hapless Miami Heat.
Cavaliers 113 Bobcats 106
At Cleveland, LeBron James scored eight of his 31 points in the second overtime, and pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers to a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Rockets 113 Timberwolves 82
At Houston, Luis Scola had 22 points and nine rebounds and rookie Carl Landry had 15 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, as the Rockets beat Minnesota to win for the seventh time in the nine games McGrady has missed with a left knee injury.
Nuggets 113 Magic 103
At Denver, Carmelo Anthony scored 32 points and Anthony Carter had 14 of his career high-tying 21 in the fourth quarter, lifting the Nuggets to a win over the Orlando Magic.
Mavericks 90 Supersonics 70
At Seattle, Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points in just three quarters, Josh Howard added 18 and Dallas overcame some early shooting woes to beat the hapless SuperSonics for the Mavericks’ season-best sixth straight win.
Warriors 116 Grizzlies 104
At Oakland, Calif., Monta Ellis made his first 11 shots and scored 27 points as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies for the fifth straight time.
Lakers 110 Bucks 105
At Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter despite a viral upper respiratory infection, Andrew Bynum had 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, and the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks their season-high fifth straight victory.