NEW YORK (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors wrapped up at least the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 110-97 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
The Raptors pulled away in the fourth quarter to reach 50 victories for the second straight season. They can still finish second if they beat Cleveland in their regular-season finale and Boston loses its final two.
Kyle Lowry had 17 points and 11 assists for the Raptors, who swept the Knicks for the first time since 2009-10.
Rookie Willy Hernangomez tied his career high with 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who despite playing without most of their top players trailed only 76-75 after three. But Toronto broke it open behind the 3-point line and won its third straight. >> Read more
The remaining time of this season should show the Knicks they have some real keepers for future reserves. Ron Baker, Justin Holiday, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas all played with a ton of energy that a competing team would want from a second unit full of life. Obviously Baker and Holiday (asked to play starting roles at this point) couldn't keep up the intensity towards the end, but they won't be asked to carry the team moving forward. This should prove they'll be able to play fine roles bringing hustle to the table in spurts.
The Knicks couldn't slow down DeMar DeRozen, but that's ok. This group isn't mature enough to have veteran defensive instincts. That said, they took control and flirted with a victory by pushing the pace offensively. The chemistry with these players is undeniable. They moved the ball well, players were enthusiastically cutting to the basket, and guys were looking for one another. Five players dished out 3 assists or more. It's easy to see they're all relishing the opportunity to strut their stuff.
The young group's heart was fully on display. Even an undermanned Knicks squad gave Toronto a scare. That should say plenty, as the Raptors had much more to play for than New York did. Obviously the Knicks' youngsters are still developing and their skills aren't as refined as a team led by two all-stars. For the Knicks, this should lead them to reflect more upon their leader in Carmelo Anthony. Where has this type of fight been all season long? Obviously a leader and a team's given star should set the tone, and Anthony failed to set the necessary example for his teammates. They've underwhelmed in the campaign, and it's discouraging to know the guys currently in focus are leaving it out on the floor with more vigor.