Raptors beat Knicks in opener of home-and-home

Road crowds and fourth-quarter deficits are suddenly no problem

for the Toronto Raptors, who have turned from chokers to

closers.

”Last year we were in a ton of situations, late-game situations

we couldn’t pull out. We’d kind of fold under the pressure, get

frustrated or let a big shot frustrate us,” guard DeMar DeRozan

said. ”Now, we don’t let none of that get to us.”

Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds,

DeRozan scored 25 and the Raptors rallied for a 95-83 victory over

the New York Knicks on Friday night.

The Raptors trailed by 12 points in the third quarter but

outscored the Knicks 29-12 in the fourth to take the opener of a

home-and-home series.

”Second half we picked it up defensively and offensively. We

got the ball up the floor a little bit faster, picked up the pace

in that third and fourth quarter, and really made a charge down the

stretch,” point guard Kyle Lowry said.

Lowry had 15 points and 11 assists for the Atlantic Division

leaders, who host the Knicks on Saturday with a chance to extend

their lead to five games over last season’s division champions.

Andrea Bargnani had 18 points and 12 rebounds against his former

team. Beno Udrih finished with 15 points and 10 assists for the

Knicks, who played again without Carmelo Anthony because of a

sprained left ankle.

Anthony was hurt Monday and had hoped to play against Oklahoma

City on Christmas, but instead might be out until the new year.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Anthony likely wouldn’t travel with

the team to Toronto for the rematch.

The Raptors won for the fifth time in their last six road games,

this one adding to a recent stretch of impressive fourth-quarter

performances. The Raptors started the fourth with an 11-0 run in an

overtime victory at Dallas on Dec. 20, then outscored Oklahoma City

29-14 on Sunday while handing the Thunder their first home

loss.

Toronto shot 9 of 18 in the fourth quarter, held the Knicks to 5

of 19 and had a 16-9 rebounding advantage.

”Fourth quarter we just couldn’t get a win. We couldn’t get

stops. They played well down the stretch,” said the Knicks’ Amare

Stoudemire, wearing a brace over what he said was a jammed right

wrist from the previous game but adding he expected to play

Saturday.

John Salmons’ 3-pointer gave Toronto the lead for good with 8:07

left, and DeRozan followed with a jumper. After J.R. Smith’s

basket, Salmons made another 3 before Valanciunas scored to make it

81-75.

Valanciunas had a three-point play that made it 91-81 with 2:01

remaining.

Despite the Knicks’ miserable 9-20 record, Woodson has continued

to point their focus toward the division title. The Knicks thought

for most of the game they would cut their deficit to two games, but

instead headed north of the border down four.

”It’s just disappointing because I felt like we had the game in

control for a big part of the game. And then kind of let it dwindle

away fourth quarter, it’s pretty disheartening,” center Tyson

Chandler said.

Despite playing without Anthony and point guard Raymond Felton,

the Knicks jumped out to a strong start. Toronto fought back to

take a 37-36 lead with 3:17 to go in the second, but the Knicks

outscored the Raptors 13-3 the rest of the half, with Smith’s

second 3-pointer during that span coming with 4.5 seconds left and

giving New York a 49-40 lead.

The Knicks extended it to 61-49 on Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 3-pointer

with 7:17 remaining in the third, but the Raptors had it down to

71-66 by the end of the period before controlling the fourth.

Smith had 17 points and Hardaway added 15.

NOTES: Saturday’s game is the last of 2013 for the Knicks, who

are off until visiting San Antonio, Houston and Dallas from Jan.

2-5. … Woodson wouldn’t comment on an ESPN.com report that

Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan met with the team

Thursday and told players there were no trades or coaching changes

forthcoming. Knicks forward Metta World Peace, who played despite a

sore left knee, said he wasn’t there and couldn’t comment because

he was an alien. ”I was in another galaxy yesterday with my

galactic friends,” he said. … Toronto and New York will have

played eight times in 2013. The Raptors only faced Orlando

once.