TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of...

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on December 10, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) Credit: AP/Chris Young

RJ Barrett had crowded approximately 1,000 guests into ScotiaBank Arena — friends, family, members of the church he attended as a child growing up in Toronto. And when his name was announced in pregame introductions, he could hear them loudly cheering the return of the hometown product.

Barrett had a chance to give them one more thing to cheer about when he got the ball in his hands with less than one second remaining in the game and the Knicks down by three. He turned and fired a three-pointer over Pascal Siakam, but the shot fell short — and so did the Knicks, another night spoiled in a 90-87 loss to Toronto.

The Knicks’ fifth loss in six games left them tied with the Raptors at 12-14.

"I just need to shoot it," Barrett said of the shot that came off an inbounds pass from Alec Burks with six-tenths of a second left. "I shot it short, so, but you know, definitely a great look for what we had on the clock."

The problem was that the Knicks had to fight from behind all night. They allowed 23 points in the first 5:36 of the game and fell behind 30-10,

suffering the same kind of malaise that has afflicted them so many times.

"It was a shame not to come out of here with a win, but the way we started the game really hurt us," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So we got in a big hole, had to fight. And then we downsized to get more shooting onto the floor and then the rebounding hurt us. Our turnovers hurt us in the first quarter."

"They came out and just played harder from the beginning just like they did the last game," said Barrett (19 points). "They were into us, they were reaching, kind of taking us out of our offense a little bit. But then once we settled in and kind of started playing defense and kind of started doing the same thing to them, and you know, we were able to settle in."

The Knicks had multiple chances in the final seconds. With the Raptors leading 89-87, Siakam missed on a jumper and the Knicks rebounded with 10 seconds left. Barrett drove toward the rim before turning and kicking it out to Julius Randle for an open three-pointer that went in and out.

The Knicks fouled Gary Trent Jr. (24 points) with nine-tenths of a second left. He made the first free throw but misfired on the second, providing one more opportunity, but Barrett missed.

The Knicks pointed to long before that final shot as the time that the game was decided.

"Just the intensity," Barrett said of the start. "We gotta have our intensity going from the beginning of the game. We can’t let teams come in and hit us first before we decide to wake up and play."

It took just 9:26 for the Knicks to fall behind by 20 points. They have shifted their starting lineup this season and undoubtedly will be scouring the league for trade possibilities when the market is freed up Dec. 15. But what they needed more than anything in the last stop of a three-game road trip was an infusion of energy.

That is something that Obi Toppin can provide, and on this night he did, bringing the energy off the bench and also doing more than just producing highlight material for television networks. He scored a career-high 19 points and added 10 rebounds.

With the Knicks trailing 84-77, Randle drove and scored, drawing a foul and completing the three-point play to bring the Knicks within four. Scottie Barnes slammed in a feed from Siakam, but Barrett delivered a three-pointer and drove baseline for a floater that made it 86-85.

After a turnover by Toronto, Derrick Rose dropped in a short jumper for an 87-86 Knicks lead, but getting outhustled came back to haunt them again.

Trent missed a shot and Toronto knocked the offensive rebound out to Fred VanVleet, who fired up a three. He missed, but the Raptors again grabbed the rebound and this time didn’t miss, with Trent connecting from three-point range for an 89-87 lead with 1:11 remaining.