Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Smith Scores 30 As Knicks Edge Raptors

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[April 17, 2014]  NEW YORK  Guard J.R. Smith ended the New York Knicks' disappointing season by scoring 30 points in a 95-92 win over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks (37-45), last season's Atlantic Division champions, finished the season on a modest four-game winning streak but were left out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Toronto (48-34), this season's Atlantic Division champs, sealed the third spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs by going 6-2 in April. The Raptors will enjoy home-court advantage to start the playoffs for the third time in their history when they face the Brooklyn Nets.

"The mindset was to make sure our guys didn't get hurt and get rest, and we did that," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "The guys coming off the bench have to come in and execute."

Guard Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 22 points. He played just 11 minutes in the second half. Toronto's bench, led by guard Greivis Vasquez's 13 points, scored 47 points  its second-highest output of the season.

Smith finished the season strong after getting suspended for the first five games for violating the league's anti-drug police. He scored at least 30 points in three of New York's last six games.


Rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was a bright spot in the Knicks' dismal season, finishing in the top five among rookie scorers. He tossed in 18 points Wednesday.

Smith took over the game down the stretch. His fall-away jumper with 21.8 seconds to play gave the Knicks a 94-90 lead. Smith's driving dunk tied the game at 90-90 with 2:14 left, and a dunk on a follow from center Cole Aldrich provided New York with a 92-90 cushion with 1:23 to go.

Center Tyler Hansbrough scored with 13 seconds left to draw Toronto to within 94-92. Toronto got the ball back with four seconds to play, but Smith stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and sank one of two from the line to seal the win.

The Knicks were without three of their starters.

Forward Carmelo Anthony sat out the last two games with a right labrum tear. He finished the season averaging 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 38.7 minutes a game. This season marked the first time in his 10-year career he failed to make the playoffs.

Aldrich made just his second start of the season at center for the Knicks. He replaced Tyson Chandler, who along with point guard Raymond Felton didn't dress for the game.

Aldrich scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for his third double-double this season.

"It says a lot about our team," Smith said. "No matter who is playing, we go out and play hard. When we play hard and when we play smart we succeed, and that describes tonight."

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The Knicks took their first lead, 71-70, since midway through the first quarter on Aldrich's basket with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Hardaway, who scored eight points in the quarter, hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left for a 74-73 lead before Hansbrough drained a free throw to tie it at 74-74 with one second to go.

Lowry was on the bench when the Raptors started the second quarter on an 18-6 run, extending their lead to 46-27 with 7:07 left until halftime. Vasquez, Lowry's replacement, started the run by scoring the first seven points.

Lowry scored 17 points in the first quarter, including all of Toronto's final 12 points over 2:29 seconds, helping it to a 28-21 lead. He also contributed three rebounds and two assists.

Toronto shot a sizzling 64.7 percent in the first quarter, compared to 26.1 percent for the Knicks.

Newly minted Knicks president Phil Jackson will have a busy offseason. His agenda will include a decision on bringing back coach Mike Woodson and convincing Anthony, a free agent this summer, that the Knicks are capable of winning an NBA title with him in the near future.

"We held ourselves to huge expectations and had big shoes to fill," Smith said. "Unfortunately we didn't fill them the way we wanted to.

"Hopefully we take that as motivation for next year."

NOTES: The Knicks signed 34-year-old F Lamar Odom before the game. In 961 games during 14 seasons with four teams, Odom has averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He played two games for Baskonia (Spain) this season and last played in the NBA for the Clippers in 2012-13. Odom played for Knicks president Phil Jackson for six seasons when he coached the Lakers. ... The Raptors lead the Eastern Conference in free throws made and free throw percentage going into the season finale. ... Toronto advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in its history and the first time since 2008.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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