Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s finally happening, New Yorkers. RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley are back on the floor at Madison Square Garden…with their Toronto Raptors (16-26) facing the New York Knicks (25-17).

It’s been less than a month since the surprise trade: The Knicks’ two former first-round picks to Toronto for OG Anunoby and two others. Anunoby made an immediate impact in New York, while Quickley and Barrett have blossomed with the Raptors.

Except with one key difference: The Raptors are 4-7 since the trade, while the Knicks are 8-3. Toronto sits 2.5 games behind Atlanta for the final play-in spot. New York is currently No. 5 in the Eastern Conference and only a half-game behind No. 4 Cleveland.

It’ll be an emotional game on both sides, and potentially an MSG classic.

Time: Saturday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m. ET


Betting Line: Knicks -7.5, Over/under 228. This game and others are available to bet at most New York sports betting apps.

Injuries: Mitchell Robinson (Ankle, OUT), Josh Hart (Knee, day-to-day), Otto Porter Jr. (Knee, OUT), Jakob Poeltl (Ankle, questionable)

Key Storyline: Family Reunion. Emotions will run high in this game. Barrett and Quickley, despite benefitting from the trade, were still popular teammates in New York. Barrett even scored 27 points in the Knicks’ 136-130 win over Toronto on Dec. 11.

Barrett has since averaged 20.2 points and 6.9 boards in ten games for the Raptors. He’s shot an efficient 54.7% from the floor and made 39.5% of his threes. Now, he’ll face his former team’s tough, bruising defense, probably from Anunoby himself. Talk about irony!

Key Matchup: Jalen Brunson vs. Immanuel Quickley. We all know that no matter the opponent, Jalen Brunson balls out for the Knicks. He’s been even better this season, averaging a career best 26.3 points and 6.5 assists per game. Years coming off the bench in Dallas prepared him for stardom in New York.

Such is the case with Immanuel Quickley, who wowed Knicks fans with his three-point range on his way to becoming their best bench player. It was no secret he was ready to be a starting point guard and he’s looked the part with the Raptors. 18 points and 5.2 assists per game are respectable numbers and he’s shot an eye-popping 45.2% from three in Toronto.

There’s just one problem: Quickley is only shooting 42.3% from the field as a Raptor and also struggles on defense. He’ll be fine, he’s just learning the position. But Quickley will certainly have a tough time keeping up with Brunson on both ends of the court.

X-Factor: Isaiah Hartenstein. The Knicks dominate the board, ranking fifth in the league. Hartenstein’s dominance and durability in the paint have more than covered Mitchell Robinson’s absence. He’s averaging 14.3 rebounds in January and has had two 20-rebound games.

Toronto ranks 12th and isn’t awful in the paint, but could be without starter Jakob Poeltl. Tempting though it might be to try and make this a shootout, Hartenstein needs to chase every loose ball and feast against Jontay Porter, who would be appearing in his 21st career NBA game.

Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Donte DiVincenzo (SG), OG Anunoby (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Isaiah Hartenstein (C)

Raptors predicted starters: Immanuel Quickley (PG), Gary Trent Jr. (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Scottie Barnes (PF), Jontay Porter (C)

Prediction: It’ll be an emotional evening from the opening tip, and fortune simply favors the Knicks. It’s Madison Square Garden. Barrett and Quickley are still learning their new roles on their new team, and already aren’t great defenders. This game is the Knicks’ to lose and while it won’t be a blowout, New York will control most of the game. Knicks beat Raptors 114-103

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.