Anderson explodes for 35 as Raptors lose to Knicks

Anderson's big night kept the Raptors in the game on Friday night - USA TODAY Sports

It was Alan Anderson's career-high 35 points that kept the Raptors in the game until the final minutes against the Knicks on Friday night.

Once again it was a lack of energy exhibited by the Toronto Raptors that ultimately did them in on Friday night as they lost 99-94 to the New York Knicks.

The Raptors found themselves down double-digits at halftime after a lackadaisical effort in that half. This was highlighted by the play of Rudy Gay who seemed to be simply going through the motions prior to suffering what seemed to be a back injury -- no official word has been made regarding his status for Saturday's game against the Knicks. By the time Gay left with that injury he was already -15 in the plus/minus category.

In the second half the Raptors came out firing. Alan Anderson exploded -- has he has made a habit of doing this every few games or so this season -- scoring 20 points in the third quarter and closing the gap to six heading into the fourth.

In the fourth it was much of the same for Anderson as he nailed multiple three-pointers including one in Carmelo Anthony's face causing Anthony to turn around and simply laugh at how difficult the shot was -- it was that kind of night for Anderson.

Anderson finished with eight in that quarter and DeRozan added nine, however Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks proved to be too much for the Raptors to handle.

Anthony scored 11 of his 37 points in the fourth, sealing the game for the Knicks.

Kenyon Martin was another big reason why the Knicks were able to win despite all of their injuries. Martin finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, something very few people could have predicted prior to tip off.

On the Raptors side of things, DeRozan finished with 18 points and Valanaciunas added 10. But, it was Alan Anderson's career-high 35 points -- a mark he set earlier in the season -- that was the reason the Raptors were in this game at all.

At this point in the season, Bryan Colangleo and the rest of the Raptors front office are in full-blown talent evaluation mode.

With that in mind, should Alan Anderson -- a free agent at season's end -- be brought back to the Raptors next season?

Anderson has become somewhat of a polarizing figure for fans, largely because of his shot selection and inability to recognize when he doesn't simply doesn't have it going. But his value to this team in undeniable.

With the current roster that the Raptors have in place, Anderson is effectively their best -- and aside from John Lucas -- only scorer off the bench.

Anderson's 11.1 points per game average -- a number that balloons to 17.2 per 36 minutes -- is good for fifth on the team, despite averaging only 24 minutes per game.

Yes, he has been prone to power outages, which he often exasperates by continuing to shoot. But when he does break out for these big scoring nights it is often against the teams in the upper echelon in the NBA, a feat that will certainly draw the attention of teams come free agency.

This is something that TSN.ca's Josh Lewenberg pointed out during the game last night.

Not only does he have to carry that bench-scoring load, he is often asked to guard the opposing teams best player. This is the aspect of his game that makes him that much more valuable, particularly for this team who lacks great defenders on the perimeter.

Obviously, Anderson brings a great deal to the table. But, with the direction in which this team is heading, it is not a forgone conclusion that Anderson will be brought back.

If the Raptors opt to keep the same starting lineup next season, specifically with regards to DeRozan and Gay, that leaves Terrence Ross, Landry Fields and Alan Anderson all battling for minutes in that second unit.

Because of all of the money that is tied up in Fields, he is a difficult player to move in a trade. He is also one of the team's best perimeter defenders and thus they are likely to hang on to him and attempt to feature him more prominently in the rotation next season.

Ross, while not an expensive option at the moment, is a player that the franchise invested a high draft pick in. Again, this means he likely figures into the Raptors long terms plans and will also feature more prominently on this team next season.

Where exactly does this leave Anderson then? Perhaps on another NBA team.

At the end of the day, this is a decision that will come down to money.

If the Raptors think they can bring Anderson back at a reasonable price that makes sense to them, than it's likely that he will be back on the roster. He is clearly a valuable piece but it is the other pieces on this roster, as well as the financial restrictions that complicate the matter quite a bit. if not, than they can fall back on Ross and Fields with the hopes that Ross makes some strides forward in his sophomore season and that Fields can find his shot again.

Leftovers:

Anderson on guarding Carmelo Anthony:

"I've guarded everybody so I've seen everything. He's going to make tough shots, I'm just there to make the shots tough."

Anderson on scoring 35:

"It feels real good personally, but when you can't get the win, you wish you did a little more."

Casey on Anderson:

"He's a veteran. He's been through the wars. Nothing intimidates him. He's one of our elder statesmen with experience and that shows."

Amir Johnson on Anderson:

"He has an offensive mindset. He has a great shot. He comes in and gives us a great lift and he has been doing that all season long. He definitely is a vet, he knows his spots and he knows when to pick and choose. We know what he is going to give us every night."

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