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Knicks fall to Raptors, 102-95

There is always some team that based on itslate-season surge might have been a dangerous playoff underdog, ifonly it had qualified.

This year's version could be the Toronto Raptors, whose bestbasketball in a couple of years is probably a case of too little,too late.

Andrea Bargnani scored 23 points, Chris Bosh had 17 points and13 rebounds, and the Raptors extended their winning streak to sixwith a 102-95 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday.

Shawn Marion added 12 points and 13 boards for the Raptors, whostayed alive for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Toronto wouldhave been eliminated with a loss and a victory by Chicago.

"We keep playing. We don't pay attention to the standings,"Bosh said. "We just try to win the next game and they say we'renot eliminated yet, so until that day we have to prepare the rightway for every game."

Instead, the Raptors eliminated the Knicks, who haven't made thepostseason since 2004. First-year coach Mike D'Antoni repeatedlysaid he thought New York could end its drought this season.

"I don't know, I was pretty disappointed that we didn't do itto be honest with you," D'Antoni said. "I just thought too manygames would come down to where we could take control of it, 15 or16 games less than five points, and we just never came up with thebig play or the big stops and tonight was just another night."

Jose Calderon scored 15 points for Toronto, on its longestwinning streak since its Atlantic Division championship team wonsix in a row in April 2007. The Raptors broke open a tight game byholding the Knicks to two field goals in the first 6-plus minutesof the fourth quarter, then held on behind their excellent foulshooting.

Widely expected to be a playoff team this season, the Raptorsgot off to a dismal start, costing coach Sam Mitchell his job whenthe Bosh-Jermaine O'Neal inside tandem struggled. Marion has been abetter fit since the Raptors acquired him from Miami for O'Neal,with Bargnani moving to the middle.

"There's nothing you can do about yesterday and times past,"Toronto coach Jay Triano said. "I mean we've been frustratedthroughout the year, but we're not right now. We've just got tokeep playing and try to win as many games as we can."

Al Harrington and Chris Duhon each scored 22 points for theKnicks, who tumbled out of playoff contention with a disappointingfinish to D'Antoni's first season. New York has lost four straightand 10 of its last 11 games.

"Once you get a feel of being in the playoffs and playing inthe playoff games, that's a feeling that you strive to continue tohave," said Duhon, who played in the postseason with Chicago. "Ijust think these guys deserve it. They need to deserve tounderstand the different level. You've got to play a different way,so the intensity is higher. It's a lot of fun playing in theplayoffs."

The teams meet again Sunday night to complete a home-and-homeseries.

Quentin Richardson made the first basket of the fourth quarterto bring New York within two points, but Toronto scored ninestraight to open an 86-75 lead on Bosh's jumper with 8:52 to play.A bucket by Chris Wilcox ended the Knicks' drought of about 3 1/2minutes before consecutive field goals by Joey Graham and JasonKapono stretched the lead to 90-77.

New York cut it to four, but Marion's follow and a three-pointplay by Anthony Parker restored a comfortable cushion at 99-90 with1:41 left. Toronto then hit its free throws, finishing 17-of-20from the line.

The Knicks scored the last six points of the first quarter,taking a 30-23 lead on Wilson Chandler's tip-in as time expired.New York pushed the lead to 12 early in the second, but Torontobattled back to tie it late in the period before the Knicks took a50-48 edge into halftime.Notes: The circus is in town, and it caused an inconvenientarrival at Madison Square Garden for the Raptors. They couldn't usetheir usual entrance into the arena, with police telling them itwas blocked off because of the elephants and to come back in anhour. The Raptors found an alternate route, but then couldn't getoff the elevator on the floor they wanted because that's where thelions were. ... The teams also played a home-and-home series inFebruary, with each team winning at home. ... The Knicks werewithout Larry Hughes (strained right ankle) and Eddy Curry, whoseleft knee is still bothering him after he tried to play during therecent three-game road trip.


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