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NBA PLAYOFFS / Raptors Can't Stop Sprewell / Jumper over Carter with :79 left wins it




Latrell Sprewell cradled the ball in his hands and suddenly he was standing

alone with his thoughts and Vince Carter.

It was one-on-one, the game's oldest and most meaningful form of jousting.

The stakes were clear. A make, and the Knicks were likely to be going to

Toronto floating on air. A miss, and the Knicks might never make it home.

Sprewell drove to his right, paused ever so briefly and drained a 10-foot

jumper over Carter in the lane with 7.9 seconds left. That gave the Knicks an

84-83 win over Toronto at Madison Square Garden last night and a 2-0 lead in

the best-of-five first-round series. Game 3 is Sunday in Toronto. Sprewell

finished with 25 points.

On the Raptors' final possession, Carter, who dazzled with 27 points after

an awful Game 1, drove toward the middle and kicked a pass over to Dee Brown

for a three-point attempt in the final second.

With Patrick Ewing in his face, Brown let fly a shot that was just long,

and the Knicks had climbed all the way back from a 16-point deficit in the

third quarter.

Larry Johnson, bad back and all, carried the Knicks on his shoulders in the

fourth quarter. With the Knicks down 69-59, Johnson got the ball in the post

on three straight possessions. He hit a fadeaway 10-footer over Charles Oakley,

drained a pair of free throws after a foul on Antonio Davis, and dropped in

consecutive baskets over Kevin Willis to close the Raptors' lead to 72-67.

After Sprewell's three-pointer with 5:50 left pulled the Knicks within

73-70, Johnson was called for his sixth foul of the game.

The Knicks also thrived on the energy of Sprewell, who drew consecutive

fouls on Carter and Tracy McGrady, made all four free throws and tied the score

at 78 with 2:27 left.

Carter then resumed the attack, weaving his way past Sprewell to find

Muggsy Bogues standing alone beyond the three-point arc in the left corner.

Bogues, who was given the starting job over Doug Christie the day before,

launched the shot, hit the bottom of the net and put the Raptors up 81-78 with

1:33 left.

On the Knicks' next possession, Allan Houston, mired in an awful 2-for-8

shooting night, drove up the middle and dished to a wide-open Patrick Ewing,

who flushed home a dunk to trim the Raptors' lead to 81-80. But Ewing fouled

Carter away from the ball and he hit both free throws for an 83-80 lead.

Houston then drove to the basket, was fouled by Oakley and hit both free

throws to cut the Knicks' deficit to 83-82.

Carter was almost too much for the Knicks to overcome as he hit 7 of 13

from the field and 13 of 16 from the line.

"I'm confident, period," Carter said before the game. "I'm not going to

doubt myself or my shot. It's just a matter of whether it goes in."

Turnovers almost killed any Knicks chances. They had six straight on six

possessions from the 11:08 mark to the nine-minute mark in the second quarter.

Kurt Thomas had two of them on ill-advised passes, Chris Childs threw the

ball away, Sprewell threw a pass out of bounds and Marcus Camby was whistled

for a double dribble.

"Turnovers have been crucial to their success against us," Jeff Van Gundy

said before the game. "We have to handle the ball a little bit better."

All during the Knicks' second-quarter stretch of futility, Ewing was

sitting on the bench with two fouls and no points.

When Willis hit a short jump hook over Johnson with 7:25 left in the second

quarter, Toronto's lead had swelled to 32-17 and the Knicks couldn't find any

offensive production from Houston and Sprewell.

Van Gundy re-inserted Ewing for the final 5:12 in the half, and the center

went to work.

After being fouled by Antonio Davis inside, Ewing hit a free throw to trim

the Raptors' lead to 11. A 10-foot jumper high off the glass cut Toronto's lead

to 34-25 with 3:11 left in the quarter.

When Ewing hit two more free throws, the Knicks went right back to him in

the post on the next possession. Ewing lofted up a short leaner in the lane,

missed it, snared the rebound, put it back in and the Knicks trailed 34-29.

Inside Game 1

Star of the Game

Latrell Sprewell

Sprewell scored 13 of the Knicks' last 17 points, including the go-ahead

basket with 7.9 seconds left. Sprewell led the Knicks with 25 points.


GAME 1: Knicks 92, Raptors 88

Last Night: Knicks 84, Raptors 83 (Knicks lead series 2-0)

GAME 3: at Air Canada Centre,

Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 4/WFAN (660)

x-GAME 4: at Air Canada Centre, Tuesday Time: TBA

x-GAME 5: at MSG, Friday, May 5 Time: TBA

x-If necessary

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