Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 30 points and Amar’e Stoudemire scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame a slow start to defeat the Toronto Raptors 108-100 on Friday.
Though the Raptors were looking to clinch the Atlantic Division in front of a home crowd, they had to wait until the Brooklyn Nets fell 93-88 to the Atlanta Hawks later Friday to secure their second division title in franchise history.
New York (34-45) came to Toronto hoping to extend its chance of making the playoffs.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (46-33) with 26 points. Kyle Lowry added 25 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 14 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.
Amir Johnson returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a sore right ankle. He played 16 minutes and was scoreless from the field.
The Knicks shot 50 per cent from the floor in the first quarter, but the Raptors held a two-point advantage over New York heading into the second quarter after scoring six of eight three-point attempts.
With a little over three minutes remaining in the first half, Tyson Chandler picked up his third foul of the game tending to Valanciunas.
Anthony, who missed both previous games between the Knicks and Raptors this season with a sprained ankle, made his presence felt early, scoring 18 points in the first half.
But despite Anthony’s strong performance, the Raptors took a 47-45 lead into the break.
The three-point line continued to be kind to Toronto in the third quarter. After connecting on seven of 12 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half, the Raptors made seven three-pointers in the third frame.
Toronto continued to struggle with Anthony, though, and the Knicks took a 78-77 lead into the fourth on the strength of Anthony’s 27 points through three quarters.
Toronto went more than six minutes without scoring a field goal after a dunk from DeRozan at the 9:15 mark kept the Raptors within two points. The Raptors’ offensive drought allowed the Knicks to pull ahead by 11 points, their largest lead of the game.
Stoudemire scored eight of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Lowry, who set a franchise record for most three-pointers made in a season with 180 — passing Morris Peterson’s record of 177 set in 2005-06 — was assessed a technical foul with 2:09 remaining in the third for arguing a non-call after a drive to the basket.
Prior to the game, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey stressed the importance of facing a team that is fighting for an opportunity to make the post-season.
“We gotta play desperate too because if you’re walking down the street and somebody’s going to come and hit you in the head with a hammer, are you going to let him do it?” Casey said. “That’s where we are. Are we going to let them come in and ambush us? So we gotta be ready to protect (ourselves), our house, our home and play with that type of desperation.”
Vaughan, Ont., native Andrew Wiggins sat courtside, which made for an entertaining moment when Toronto rapper Drake’s “Draft Day” was played at Air Canada Centre. The song mentions Wiggins.