Knicks head north to face Raptors
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two Atlantic Division foes, each with their own playoff jockeying still to do, jump it up Friday night when the New York Knicks visit Air Canada Centre to face the Toronto Raptors.
The Knicks are two games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference race. Both teams only have four games left on the regular- season docket.
The Raptors are on the doorstep of the franchise's first Atlantic Division title since the 2006-07 season. A win on Friday, or a Brooklyn Nets loss to the Hawks, and Toronto is the division winner and also clinches homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We've got to bring the same effort and focus every night," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after practice Thursday. "It's not something you teach. It's a mindset of understanding where we are in the season and what we're playing for."
The Raptors have been on a roll of late with four consecutive victories and seven wins in their last eight. The only setback during that stretch was a road loss to the Miami Heat.
Toronto, which has won five straight at home, earned its fourth consecutive win with a 125-114 home victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The 125 points marked a team high since Feb. 27.
Jonas Valanciunas scored a career-high 26 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Kyle Lowry, who missed Toronto's last three games with a bruised knee, registered 29 points with eight assists in his return to the lineup.
"I was happy to be back out there with my teammates," said Lowry. "The guys did a great job while I was out."
DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson added 17 points apiece in the win.
The Raptors shot 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from long distance. They only committed seven turnovers, but did allow the Sixers to shoot almost 52 percent from the floor.
The Knicks have slipped out of the final postseason slot thanks to back-to- back losses. They fell at home to the Washington Wizards one week ago, then fell in South Beach to the Heat on Sunday, 102-91.
That was the last time the Knicks took the court, so they should be well rested.
"I've got to get this team in the playoffs. That's where my focus is," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "That's where everybody's focus should be."
J.R. Smith put on a record-setting performance from beyond the arc on Sunday, setting a Knicks record with 10 made 3-pointers. Smith also set a pair of NBA records, with 22 attempts from long distance in a single game and 24 made 3- pointers over a three-game span. He ended with 32 points.
Raymond Felton had 15 points and five assists for New York. Carmelo Anthony, who played with a sore shoulder, added 13 points and six assists.
"Throughout the course of the game, it just felt like a dead arm at times. Just a tough afternoon," Anthony said.
Anthony is expected to play in Friday's crucial contest.
These two teams will close the regular season on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The Raptors have won both of this season's meetings with the Knicks and three of the last four as the host in this series.
04/11 11:19:17 ET