The struggling Toronto Raptors made their way to New York in hopes of breaking their recent losing streak. The Raptors, who still sit atop the Atlantic Division, haven't looked like the same first-placed team they once were at the beginning of the season.
The Knicks, meanwhile, remain the NBA's worst team. They were without All-Star Carmelo Anthony (knee surgery, out for the season), Lance Thomas (strained left groin) and former Raptor, Jose Calderon who strained his left Achilles. For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry was given the night off to rest. (Play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin also sat out as he felt ill during pregame.)
Before the game began, the Knicks showed a video tribute to the late former Knick Anthony Mason. Mason, a 13-year-NBA vet, helped the Knicks reach the finals in 1994 and won the NBA's sixth man of the year award for the 1994-1995 season. He passed away at 48-years-old.
The Raptors started the game unable to make consecutive shots early on. Looking hungover from the loss to the Golden State Warriors Friday night, the Raps shot poorly in the first quarter at 38 percent on six of 16 shots from the field. The slow start meant a meagre 15 point first quarter with DeMar DeRozan "leading" the way with six points. His counterpart Tim Hardaway Jr. had ten points by the end of the first.
The two aforementioned players also traded highlight reel plays - but for very different reasons. DeRozan decided to try and show off in the Big Apple -- I can't blame him, i'd probably do the same thing if I could dunk -- with a missed breakaway 360. As for Hardaway, he made a buzzer beating layup to close the first quarter. Let's just say, things did not start off well for Toronto.
The second quarter looked more promising as the Raptors went on an 9-0 run to reclaim the lead (and their dignity) at 35-34. By the end of the first half, the Raps looked to be a bit more back on track. They scored 32 points to the Knicks' 28 but still, the Knicks led 50-47. By this point Lou Williams had 16 points for the Raps and DeRozan had 10 points. Amir Johnson had seven boards while Greivis Vasquez had four assists. The Raptors were shooting 43 percent from the field, 71 percent from the free throw line, 30 percent from three, 11 assists, 30 rebounds and seven turnovers.
The third quarter remained much like the first half. Williams, DeRozan and Amir Johnson continued to miss shots. Patrick Patterson and James Johnson however carried the load making some layups and much-needed three-pointers. But again, at the end of the third, New York led 75-71.
The fourth quarter is where it all got ugly. With less than two minutes remaining, and the Raps still trailing, Andrea Bargnani made a nifty jump shot to push the lead to seven at 99-92. The Raps tried to make a late comeback as Williams, DeRozan and Patterson made buckets but it was too little too late as the Knicks sealed the deal with Langston Galloway's backbreaking three-pointer.
At the end of the game, Toronto made 42 percent of their shots, shot 27.6 percent from three, and 78.6 percent at the free throw line. They managed to get 40 rebounds and score 38 points in the painted area but had 12 turnovers. Lou Williams scored 22 points, as Valancuinas had 16. For the Knicks, Hardaway had 22 points while Bargnani had scored 19.
With the loss, Toronto is now tied with the Chicago Bulls for second in the Eastern Conference. They're also just half a game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers who sit in fourth. The Raptors will take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. It's a game that felt very winnable... until now.
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