Work in Sports
Crash and burn
Air Canada up in flames as Knicks sweep series
Posted: Monday May 01, 2000 09:10 AM
TORONTO (AP) -- Larry Johnson had no trouble picking a nickname for the shot of the game, a 3-pointer that banked in off the backboard from a nearly straight-away angle.
"The lucky one," he called it.
Johnson's 3-pointer with 24.2 seconds left Sunday led the Knicks to an 87-80 victory over the Toronto Raptors in the first NBA playoff game in Canada.
New York completed a three-game sweep to advance to the second round against its most bitter rival -- the Miami Heat.
"Definitely, the gods were with me," Johnson said. "I didn't call a bank on that one."
The Knicks and Heat will meet in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. This time, both teams are coming off 3-0 first-round victories.
"It's going to be a war going up against those guys," Johnson said. "My four years here, we've played them four times in the playoffs, and we're looking forward to this challenge."
The Knicks had to work hard for this one, just as they did in the first two games of the series, and the difference came down to which team could make the right decisions and sink the key shots in the final minute.
Allan Houston, who led New York with 23 points, made the first one when he sank a 21-foot jumper with 44 seconds left for an 82-78 lead. After two foul shots by Antonio Davis, Johnson's 3-pointer slammed off the backboard and went right through the net without touching the rim.
"I said to him, 'Did you call glass?' And he said no," Toronto's Vince Carter said. "That's tough to swallow, that shot. That's a shot you make in H-O-R-S-E. He makes that shot at a crucial point in the game, it's tough to come back from."
Upon making the shot, Johnson pointed his fist at his right elbow -- his "Big L" gesture that has returned to fashion after a one-year absence. Only this time, the "L" might just as well have stood for "Lucky" as for "Larry."
"I thought it was good when I let it go," Johnson said. "It hit the glass and went in. I'll take it. I'll take it."
Carter and Dee Brown missed shots on Toronto's next possession, and Chris Childs locked up the victory by making two foul shots with 11.8 seconds left.
As the final eight seconds ticked off the clock, the Raptors hung their heads and gave up.
Carter had another below-par game, scoring 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting. He tossed his sneakers into the stands after the buzzer.
"End of the season. I don't need them," he said.
The Knicks aggressively double-teamed Carter in the final minutes, even sending two men out to guard him at halfcourt when he brought the ball up.
After Carter hit two foul shots for a 78-78 tie with 1:34 left, Johnson was fouled by Dee Brown and made both free throws. Charles Oakley then picked up his dribble 30 feet from the basket and threw the ball out of bounds when none of the other Raptors came to help him.
With Toronto double-teaming Latrell Sprewell on the right wing on New York's next possession, Houston was left open. He saw an opening, stepped up and made a 22-foot jumper with 44 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Houston had his highest-scoring game of the series, while Johnson added 14 points, Patrick Ewing had 12 and Sprewell 11.
"I banked a shot in, and it was a big shot," Johnson said, "but Allan kept us in this game, doing what he's been doing all year -- leading us in scoring."
Davis led the Raptors with 18 points.
The biggest statistical difference was in 3-point shooting -- New York went 9-for-16 and Toronto was 3-for-21.
"I don't think we took 21 3-point shots in a single game all season," Raptors coach Butch Carter said.
Carter played only seven minutes in the first quarter and did not score, then sat out the final four minutes of the second quarter. It was one of several curious moves by coach Carter, who used Brown throughout the fourth quarter instead of Muggsy Bogues or Dell Curry. Brown was scoreless in the series, including a missed 3-pointer at the end of Game 2.
New York missed 10 of its first 11 shots and Toronto started 2-for-11, and neither team led by more than five in a first half that ended with the Knicks ahead 46-45. Houston led the Knicks with 10 points, while Davis had 14 for Toronto to make up for a lack of production from Carter and Tracy McGrady.
The Raptors made the first big move of the game midway through the third quarter as McGrady scored eight straight points for a 59-52 lead, but Houston spurred a quick comeback with a steal, a block and a 3-pointer as New York ran off an 8-0 spurt to regain the momentum.
Toronto led 63-61 entering the fourth, and each team had a run -- 8-0 by the Knicks, 7-0 by the Raptors -- in the first six minutes of the final quarter.
Notes: NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game. ... Butch
Carter gave a critical self-assessment before the game, saying he'd
do a lot of things differently if he could start the first round