New York Knicks forward Julius Randle controls the ball against...

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle controls the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The one thing the Knicks could rely on almost every night was the play of Julius Randle, who earned second-team All-NBA honors. But he has seen early ups and downs this season and over the last three games entering Monday’s meeting with the Raptors averaging just 13 points on 36.8% shooting. Still, the Knicks won all three games.

I thought in Chicago he played a great game without shooting the ball particularly well," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His rebounding, his playmaking, and he’s a magnet. He’s going to command a lot of attention and we can play off that. The defenders are pulled toward him so it opens up the floor for other things.

"Everyone has to sacrifice and we know what he can do. He’s going to have some real big nights and that’s the beauty of Julius’ game. He can beat you with the pass, he can beat you off the dribble, he can shoot the three, post up, put it on the floor. There are so many things that he can do and he does them. But the first and foremost is winning. So whatever the game calls for, he’ll provide."

Humble beginnings

With this game marking a matchup of the two teams involved in what is considered the first NBA game played on November 1, 1946, it was a long way from Madison Square Garden where the history was made.

The league was known as the Basketball Association of America. The game was between the Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, a team that would last just one season, and it was held at what was called the Maple Leaf Gardens. Now, like the league and the franchise, it’s something else.

"The significance of that for me is I lived right up there by Maple Leaf Gardens my first year in Toronto and now it’s a grocery store," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I went in there and saw the sign on the pillar there. I was taking pictures of that going, ‘Man that’s incredible. That’s incredible.’ I didn’t even know that when I was there nine years ago as a Raptors assistant. Hey, pretty cool, rematch, I think we owe them one."

Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access