Amare, Knicks closing in on sixth-place Sixers - Metro US

Amare, Knicks closing in on sixth-place Sixers

Knicks 131, Raptors 118

What went right …

1 Who needs defense? — The Knicks scored 39 points in each of the first two quarters to put away the Raptors last night. More importantly, they crept within a half game of sixth-place Philadelphia, which lost by 17 to the Celtics. The Knicks are 1-2 against the Sixers this season, but won the last meeting on Feb. 6.

2 Bench help — Toney Douglas only had 11 points off the bench last time out against the Cavs but broke free of his doldrums in a big way against Toronto. The backup point guard erupted for 14 of his 28 points in the first half, including three of his six 3s in that span. Douglas led a Knicks’ first-quarter charge that featured a 13-0 run to start the game, as they led wire-to-wire in the rout. They’ll need his legs to run with Philadelphia tonight.

3 Clicking — When the offense is clicking on all cylinders the Knicks look like an elite team. Granted it was against the porous Raps’ defense but New York showed the faithful a glimpse of what can happen if everyone plays their roles. The Knicks, who got 23 points a piece from Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, held a 29-point lead at one point, their largest of the season. New York even clamped down on the defensive end when it mattered, allowing just 11 Toronto assists on 45 baskets.

The Knicks finally took care of business against one of the league’s dregs with a convincing 131-118 win over the Toronto Raptors.

It was their fourth-straight win and perhaps finally a sign that the team has jelled since the trade, as they ran out to large leads in the first half and cruised to the finish line. After overwhelming the Cleveland Cavs two nights prior, finally exorcising those demons, the Knicks [39-38] climbed past the .500 mark thanks to a 39-point first-quarter blitz of the hapless Raptors [29-56].

Leading the way for New York was Carmelo Anthony, who had 19 of his 23 points in the first half. The Knicks had five players in double-digits, including 13 points and nine assists from Chauncey Billups. So dominant were the Knicks that the Raps didn’t even attempt a 3 until Demar DeRozan knocked down a halfcourt prayer at the halftime buzzer. Toronto shot a respectable 48 percent but were stagnant throughout, as they only tallied 11 assists on their 45 made baskets. Toronto also allowed the Knicks to showcase a passing clinic, as New York assisted on 31 of their 45 made field goals. The Knicks shot 58 percent from the field, including 56 percent from 3.

As it is with every NBA game, though, the Raps tried to claw back into the game and made mini-runs in the fourth quarter – getting as close as eight points — but the lead proved to be insurmountable. Toney Douglas, who finished with a team-high 28 points, sparked the team off the bench as he tallied eight quick points in the first quarter, including two 3s. New York raced out to a 13-0 run and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire. Douglas knocked down 6 of 9 3s.

Overall, the Knicks gave the faithful lots to cheer about and hopefully turned the corner from the uneven malaise they’ve been in since the Anthony trade. Amar’e Stoudemire poured in a quiet 23 points and wasn’t even needed, as the Raptors’ big men were non-existent. Andrea Bargnani, who’s been known to demonize the Knicks, was an apparition as he only played eight minutes in the first half before bowing out for good with a foot injury. He wasn’t much of a factor anyway, as he went scoreless, shooting 0-for-4 from the field, and was actually a minus-19 during his mini-stint.

The seventh-seeded Knicks dominated its second-straight also-ran but now face a formidable foe in the sixth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who are only a half-game ahead of the Knicks in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. During the Knicks’ post-trade funk, the Sixers leapfrogged them in the standings, so tonight’s test in Philly will go a long way into showing the league if New York is for real and finally turned that proverbial corner — or will they continue to tease their fanbase with a lackluster performance on the second of a back-to-back?

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