NBA: Raptors, Knicks coaches seek better defense from their teams


The Toronto Raptors will have one final chance this month to take advantage of their home court when they host the New York Knicks on Sunday before going on a seven-game road trip.

The Raptors have dropped three straight after losing 106-104 to the injury-depleted Boston Celtics on Saturday to open a brief two-game homestand. They were 1-2 on their previous road trip, defeating the Knicks 123-121 in overtime on Monday.

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The Raptors, who led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter Saturday, took a four-point advantage into the fourth against the Celtics, who were without Jayson Tatum (wrist).

“There were a lot of times when we controlled the ball, pursued the ball, contested at the rim, blocked shots at the rim, etc.,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “And then there’s just too many times when it’s a straight-line drive and a layup, right? We just can’t give those up.”

The Knicks also have dropped three straight after losing 139-124 to the host Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

The Hawks opened the fourth quarter on a 20-4 surge as the Knicks showed how much they missed center Mitchell Robinson, who had thumb surgery on Thursday.

“You give up 139, and credit to them, they’re playing great basketball right now, but we’re not going to be able to win a game like that,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I liked our offense a lot — shoot 59 percent and score 124. But there was no defensive urgency or mindset from the start of the game.

“I liked the urgency and the pace that we played offensively. But I thought defensively we made it an offensive game and (the Hawks are) too good to do that. You have to be tied together on defense when you’re playing against them. And I didn’t feel we were.”

The Hawks had a 39-34 advantage in total rebounds against the Knicks.

“The rebounding was a problem, right from the start and that was a concern,” Thibodeau said. “Mitch is part of it, but we’ve been a good rebounding team all year. And right now we’re not playing great defense. So we have to get back to that.”

Jericho Sims sat the bench for five consecutive games until Robinson was injured Wednesday in the first quarter of a home loss to the Washington Wizards, but he started on Friday and had 12 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

Backup center Isaiah Hartenstein remained on the second unit and had two points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.

“We’ve gone back and forth,” Thibodeau said. “I feel good about both guys. Part of it was to try to keep some rhythm with the second unit. Part of it is you want both groups to function well. What gives us the best chance to win? It may change based on matchups. We just liked the way that was going to flow for us.”

The Raptors played without Fred VanVleet (rib soreness) on Saturday and lost O.G. Anunoby (ankle) in the third quarter. Nurse said VanVleet was questionable for Sunday, while Anunoby’s availability is unclear.

Pascal Siakam had 29 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the Raptors on Saturday.

Toronto has won two of three from New York this season. Sunday’s meeting will be the final game between the Atlantic Division foes in the regular season.

–Field Level Media

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