Knicks beat Raptors, clinch playoffs

When the New York Knicks signed Kenyon Martin last month, they
hoped the veteran big man might help them with a playoff push.

 

Left short-handed by a rash of frontcourt injuries, the Knicks
are suddenly counting on Martin more than they ever imagined. Best
of all, he’s coming up big.

Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, Martin had 19 points and 11
rebounds, and the Knicks clinched a playoff berth with a 99-94
victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

”He means a lot to this team right now,” Anthony said of
Martin, his one-time Denver teammate. ”We need him coming down the
stretch.”

Making his fifth straight start, Martin connected on his first
nine field goal attempts, not missing until 1:40 remained in the
fourth quarter.

”He stepped up big time,” New York coach Mike Woodson said.
”He scored for us, he rebounded, had a few blocks. He did a little
bit of everything.”

Veteran guard Jason Kidd, who once played with Martin in New
Jersey, said the 35-year-old has been an invaluable addition
following injuries to big men Amare Stoudemire (right knee), Tyson
Chandler (neck), Kurt Thomas (right foot) and Rasheed Wallace (left
foot).

 

”He’s a true professional,” Kidd said. ”If we didn’t have him
we would be in trouble right now. He’s playing big on both
ends.”

Out of basketball before the Knicks came calling, Martin said he
considers himself ”blessed” to be back on the court and playing
for a contender.

”I just tried to stay ready,” he said. ”An opportunity came
for me to come out and play. It’s unfortunate that it’s because of
injury, but I’ll take it.”

J.R. Smith scored 14 points as the Knicks earned their 41st win.
That guaranteed they’ll reach the playoffs for the third straight
season, something they hadn’t done since a 14-year streak of
postseason appearances from 1988 to 2001.

With 15 games left and playoff seeding still undecided, Woodson
doesn’t want his team easing up.

 

”We can’t have any slippage, no matter who we play, because
Brooklyn is not going anywhere and Boston is not going anywhere,”
Woodson said.

The league’s second-leading scorer, Anthony has 57 total points
in his past two games after missing six of the previous eight with
a sore right knee. His 43 minutes were about 10 more than Woodson
had hoped he’d play, but Anthony wasn’t complaining.

”I’ll take on that challenge, I love that challenge, I want
that challenge,” he said. ”I wanted to see what I could do,
especially being out and not playing the way I know how to
play.”

The defeat was a double blow for Toronto, which lost for the
11th time in 15 games and saw forward Rudy Gay leave in the second
with a sore back. Gay did not return, and his status for Saturday
night’s rematch in New York was not known.

Alan Anderson scored a career-high 35 points, DeMar DeRozan had
18 and Jonas Valanciunas 10 as the Raptors lost their third
straight. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 10 assists.

Down by 14 points midway through the third, the Raptors rallied
to make a game of it in the fourth. A three-point play by DeRozan
cut it to 84-82 with 6:17 left, but Anthony answered with a
three-point play of his own, keying a 10-2 run that put the Knicks
up 94-84 with 4:00 remaining.

 

A putback dunk by Terrence Ross cut it to 97-92 with 39 seconds
left and, after Smith missed a pair of free throws, Anderson made
two from the line, making it 97-94.

Anthony was fouled and made the first but missed the second,
giving the Knicks a four-point edge. Jason Kidd grabbed the rebound
when Ross’s 3-point heave came up short, and capped it by making
one of two from the line.

Chandler (neck) did not travel with the team, remaining in New
York for treatment. Woodson said he doesn’t know when Chandler, who
last played March 13, will be cleared to return. The Knicks had
earlier said they expected Chandler to miss about a week.

Raymond Felton’s banked 3 gave the Knicks a 25-15 lead with two
minutes left in the first but Anderson scored five straight points
as the Raptors cut it to 25-22 after one.

Gay headed to the locker room with a sore back at 7:04 of the
second and the Knicks pulled away. Anthony and Kidd each scored six
as New York outscored Toronto 25-15 to open a 50-37 lead at the
half. The Raptors made five of 20 field goal attempts in the
quarter.

”We just had a lot of open misses,” Anderson said. ”We
weren’t swinging the ball from side to side like we did in the
previous two games against them.”

Anderson matched a Raptors record with 20 points in the third
and Toronto made five of nine from 3-point range, but a turnaround,
buzzer-beating 3 by Anthony gave the Knicks a 77-71 lead heading
into the fourth.

NOTES: Stoudemire, Thomas and Wallace also skipped the trip to
Toronto. … Iman Shumpert started for the New York after sitting
out the second half of Wednesday’s win over Orlando with a sore
left knee. … Mike James was the last Toronto player to score 20
in a quarter, doing it in the fourth against Detroit on Apr. 14,
2006. … Woodson expressed his sadness at the death of former
Knicks captain Ray Williams, who died Friday at the age of 58.
”It’s a major loss,” Woodson said. ”He’s a part of our Knicks
family.” … Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. attended the game.