Work in Sports
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Latrell Sprewell brought the New York Knicks all the way back.
Sprewell scored 13 of his 25 points in the final six minutes, including the go-ahead jumper over Vince Carter with 7.9 seconds remaining, as the Knicks rallied for an 84-83 victory over the Toronto Raptors and a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
"Character, a lot of character," Sprewell said. "It shows, more than anything, that we wanted this game and it shows how much we wanted to win."
Sprewell simply rescued the Knicks, who looked lethargic and trailed by 16 points midway through the third quarter. New York, which barely won Game One, appeared ready to relinquish home-court advantage to the inexperienced Raptors.
Working primarily against Carter, Sprewell scored 11 straight points for the Knicks down the stretch. His two free throws with 2:27 left gave New York its first tie since 4-4 and his final shot sent the sellout Madison Square Garden crowd into ecstasy.
From the left wing, Sprewell dribbled right into the lane and stopped for a split second before launching a short jumper over Carter to give the Knicks their first lead since the opening minute.
"We were waiting to see what the defense was going to do," said Sprewell. "They left me single coverage, so at that point, I started looking at the shot and focusing on the basket. He left me the middle, so I just tried being aggressive."
"He started hitting shots. It's tough when a man's feeling confident to stop him," Carter said. "When he's in the zone, he feels he can hit from anywhere on the court. Once I got into foul trouble, it was hard for me to judge how to play him because I didn't know what I could get away with and how close I can play him. But I have to give him his respect, he took a step back to hit that tough shot to ice the game."
On the final possession, the Knicks keyed on Carter, who scored 27 points. From the top of the circle, the second-year All-Star forward stepped into a 3-pointer and fired a pass to the left wing to a wide-open Dee Brown. But Brown missed the shot and time expired.
"I was feeling confident," Carter said. "I was thinking shot, but I happened to look out the corner of my eye and Dee was wide open. He's a good 3-point shooter and we took our chances.
Dee's hit that shot before to win the game against Washington earlier in the year."
"I was sitting down the majority of the game, but you know you're mind is set to do one thing," Brown said. "If the ball comes to you, you have to hit that shot. But it's tough when you're sitting around."
Raptors coach Butch Carter knew what defense Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy would use.
"Any time you play Jeff, you know he's going to double-team your best player at the top, so you put two shooters on the wing and let them go and let him (the ballhandler) kick it," Butch Carter said. "The first time I won here, I won with Doug Christie on the same play. I gave it to (Damon) Stoudamire, he kicked it to the guy on the wing and when the defense rotated to him, he kicked it to the guy on the corner.
"You know, it is real simple. Jeff is an old general and he shows you things that he knows how to do to win. My job is to do the best I can to try to match him. For the two games in the playoffs that have counted, he has been the better general."
Game Three is Sunday in Toronto, where the Knicks can complete the sweep. They lost both their visits to the Air Canada Centre during the regular season but their playoff savvy clearly has gotten the better of the Raptors, who are in the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
"I'm looking ahead to Game Three," Vince Carter said. "We're never going to be down on ourselves because we feel we're good enough to be here. Unfortunately, we're down 2-0 but we're going to come back fighting. Hopefully, we can go back home and build up a little momentum and get a little streak going."
Carter was much more under control after shooting 3-of-20 in his playoff debut Sunday. He made 7-of-13 shots and rarely forced the issue, often setting up teammates for easy opportunities.
However, his rushed 3-pointer missed with 28 seconds left to set up Sprewell's game-winner.
Patrick Ewing had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who scored 29 points in the fourth quarter after managing just 34 in the first half.
Until the stretch, it was a brutal game with 60 fouls and 79 free throws that lasted 2 hours, 47 minutes -- 13 minutes longer than the New York Yankees' afternoon victory.
A hook by Kevin Willis, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, gave Toronto a 69-55 lead with 10:46 left. Larry Johnson responded with eight straight New York points to cut the deficit to 72-67 with 6:25 to go.
Willis made a free throw as Johnson fouled out but Sprewell took over from there. His 3-pointer cut the margin in half and he answered two free throws by Carter with a pair of jumpers to pull the Knicks within 75-74 with 4:15 remaining.
Carter beat the shot clock with a jumper off a weaving dribble but Sprewell made two from the line with 2:58 left. After a foul shot by Tracy McGrady, he made two more to tie it.
"He made big shots even as he played the entire half and even as he had the obvious physically fatiguing job of guarding Carter," Van Gundy said. "I just really liked how he attacked the basket in the fourth quarter, got to his spot, got his shot."
Carter found Bogues for a 3-pointer from the left corner that silenced the crowd and gave Toronto an 81-78 lead with 1:34 to play. Ewing dunked and Carter and Allan Houston traded a pair of foul shots, leaving the Raptors with an 83-82 edge with 38 seconds left.
Houston scored 12 points, Johnson added 11 and Marcus Camby nine with 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 40 percent (27-of-67) and made 28-of-38 free throws.
"LJ was great tonight," Camby said. "He really got it going in the fourth quarter before he fouled out. He got us some key baskets and made us big free throws. He gave us life. We were dying out there, but he got us pumped up with some big shots. He helped us grind this one out."
McGrady scored 13 points and Antonio Davis added 12 for the Raptors, who shot 41 percent (24-of-58) and made 33-of-41 from the line. Carter made 13-of-16 free throws.
The 5-3 Bogues got the start over Doug Christie and made an early impact with a backcourt steal that was part of a 12-1 spurt and gave the Raptors control for the rest of the first half. Carter, who missed his first 12 shots in Game One, had a pair of jumpers in the run.
The Raptors led 26-15 after one period as the Knicks shot just 29 percent (5-of-17). New York's struggles continued in the second quarter as it went scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes.
A jump hook by Willis gave Toronto a 32-17 lead at the 7:23 mark.
But the Raptors went cold, going nearly seven minutes without a basket, and the Knicks snapped out of their point-a-minute offensive funk with a 17-4 run. Ewing scored seven consecutive points and a 3-pointer by Sprewell cut the deficit to 36-34 with 1:05 left.
Charles Oakley countered with a 3-pointer and Carter hit a jumper to end the period and the third quarter began the same as the first two. Toronto opened with five free throws as New York sputtered on offense and a free throw by Bogues gave the Raptors their largest lead at 53-37 with 7:08 left.
"Toronto played great defense, offense and we knew they would play extremely well," Van Gundy said. "We just didn't pass the ball to each other and if you miss open people in this league, the basketball gods deem that your shots won't go in. That is how it is, that is how it should be."