The Toronto Raptors failed to extend their franchise high in road and overall wins against the New York Knicks Wednesday night. In their regular season finale, Kyle Lowry led the Raptors (48-34) to a 21-point first-half lead over the Knicks (37-45) at Madison Square Garden. While Toronto led for the majority of the game, a 30-point effort by the Knicks in the third quarter put them right back in it. There were five lead changes in the last frame. New York took the final lead on a Cole Aldrich putback. While they had ample opportunity, Toronto’s lineup of Chuck Hayes, Tyler Hansbrough, Steve Novak, Nando De Colo and Dwight Buycks were not able to get over the hump.
The outcome of this game ultimately made no difference in the standings. The Raptors clinched the third seed in the Eastern Conference midway through the third quarter, when the Chicago Bulls lost to the Charlotte Bobcats 91-86 in overtime. Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Raymond Felton did not dress for New York. The Knicks announced they had signed Lamar Odom before the game. Odom was inactive along with Kenyon Martin and former Raptor Andrea Bargnani.
The Raptors were firing on all cylinders early on. Kyle Lowry was the catalyst. He scored 17 of the team’s 25 points in the first quarter. He hurt the Knicks on his drives inside as well as on pull-up threes. His team moved the ball well and found wide open looks while the Knicks’ defence was in total disarray. Midway through the second quarter, Toronto was still shooting a sparkling 75 per cent from the field. The Raptors led by as many as 21 points and finished the half with 57 points on 60 per cent shooting and 13 assists. However, a dozen turnovers by the Raptors allowed the Knicks to remain within striking distance.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey dug deep into his bench in the second half. The team was lethargic and their offence stalled. They picked it up late in the third by attacking the basket. The Raptors scored 14 of their 17 third-quarter points inside the paint. The Knicks upped their defensive intensity in the fourth, holding the Raptors to 18 points. Toronto finished with 92, which is well below their season average of 101.4 points per game. Their field goal percentage took a dive from 60 per cent in the first quarter to 45 per cent overall. They coughed the ball up 25 times, leading to 22 points for New York. Lowry tallied a team-high 22 points on 8-15 shooting and five assists in 26 minutes. Despite the win, somewhere in the arena, Knicks owner James Dolan was kicking himself.
The Raptors held the Knicks to 44 points on 36 per cent shooting in the first half. However, the Knicks started the third quarter on a 10-2 run. By the end of the frame, Toronto gave up 30 points and the Knicks were right back in the game. New York finished with 95 points in the victory. The Raptors usually allow 98.1 points per game, which is good for the seventh-stingiest defense in the league.
The Raptors dominated the glass. They led the battle of the boards 29-16 after two quarters. They finished with 48 to New York’s 36. Tyler Hansbrough led the way for Toronto with nine rebounds. Cole Aldrich grabbed 16 boards for the Knickerbockers.
Game Ball: J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith scored a game-high 30 points on 13-19 shooting and recorded five steals. He was crucial in the team’s comeback effort. The Knicks were down by four points with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when head coach Mike Woodson subbed in Smith. Last season’s Sixth Man of the Year went on to score seven points in the final three minutes of the game, propelling the Knicks to their 37th win.