Knicks seek to shore up defense against struggling Raptors

One scary sight for the New York Knicks was Jalen Brunson appearing to turn his ankle in the final minutes of a lopsided loss to the Boston Celtics. Another scary sight was their past two defensive pe

Knicks seek to shore up defense against struggling Raptors

One scary sight for the New York Knicks was Jalen Brunson appearing to turn his ankle in the final minutes of a lopsided loss to the Boston Celtics. Another scary sight was their past two defensive performances.

Fortunately for the Knicks, Brunson will be available Monday night when they attempt to correct some of those defensive issues to avoid a season-high third straight loss against the visiting Toronto Raptors.

Brunson was injured with 21 seconds remaining in Friday’s 133-123 loss to the Boston Celtics when he stepped on Payton Pritchard’s foot and was helped off the court. The Knicks did not provide an immediate update, but Sunday coach Tom Thibodeau said Brunson’s ankle was “good” and he was expected to be available Monday.

Brunson scored 23 points Friday, and the Knicks are playing their first home game since he scored 42 in a 118-112 win over the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 30.

The Knicks allowed 106 points in a 13-point win at Toronto on Dec. 1 but gave up 146 Tuesday in Milwaukee to be eliminated from the NBA’s in-season tournament and then gave up their second-highest point total Friday.

The Knicks allowed Milwaukee to shoot 60.4 percent and hit 23 3-pointers and followed it up by giving up 52.7 percent from the field and 19 3s, matching their third-highest total.

This rough defensive stretch is occurring after the Knicks won 10 of 13 from Nov. 6-Dec. 1 by allowing 106.5 points and 35.9 percent from behind the arc.

“It’s problematic,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to fix our defense. It starts individually. Better containment of the ball. Better ball pressure. Better challenging shots. And every aspect.

“I thought offensively guys did a good job trying to create advantages. The rebounding is good. But our defense has to be fixed.”

The Knicks will likely deploy their new starting group that features Donte DiVincenzo with Quentin Grimes coming off the bench.

They also may make another adjustment if Mitchell Robinson cannot play. Robinson played 18:42, underwent X-rays on his left ankle and did not play for the final 15 1/2 minutes, though the center thought it was not a serious issue.

Toronto is on its second three-game skid this season and has lost five of six since getting to .500 on Nov. 24.

On Friday, the Raptors shot better than 50 percent for the first time since Nov. 24 but also allowed a season-worst 55.7 percent from the field and wound up with a 119-116 loss at Charlotte. Toronto trailed by as many as 20 and lost despite scoring 74 points in the paint.

Scottie Barnes posted a triple-double with a season-high 31 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Raptors trailed by 13 going into the fourth and blew a five-point edge midway through the final quarter.

Pascal Siakam added 25, but the Raptors were outscored by 13 in the opening quarter and have been outscored by 26 in their past three first quarters.

“We have to come and play with some urgency from the beginning and lock in mentally,” Barnes said after the Raptors allowed more than 115 points for the eighth time. “Create stops and let that lead us to transition on the offensive end.”