No need to go too in depth on this one as New York gets the win due to the lack of playing time from Toronto’s key players. Once it was clear that Toronto had clinched the third spot in the Eastern Conference -towards the end of the third quarter we found out the Chicago Bulls had lost their final game, meaning Toronto nabbed third- Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey pulled his top troops and elected to go with Nando De Colo, Dwight Buycks, Steve Novak, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes down the stretch. And that was enough for New York, down 57 to 44 at the half, to climb all the way back for the win. In fairness, some of the Knicks’ comeback came early in the third quarter when Kyle Lowry and other starters were still in the game. New York used a 30 to 17 third Q to get back in this one and while the game mattered little in the end, periods like these will likely give Casey and his staff a lot of reason to get in the video room prior to the start of the playoffs…which start on Saturday.
Of course the Knicks gave up an and-one opportunity and a couple threatening rebounds to the Raptors down the stretch of their final game. Of course the last 20 seconds took like 15 minutes and included several unexpected opportunities for Toronto. The Knicks had to Knicks their final game, even if they ended up with a win. I’m blown away Steve Novak didn’t beat ‘em at the last second. And hey, it was a pretty fun win! Cole Aldrich– who made the best use by far of these meaningless games in the final week– dominated the glass, thwarted several Raptor shots, and dropped in a few buckets as well. Toure’ Murry hit some more threes. J.R. Smith shot the damn lights out and I somehow didn’t realize it until looking at the box score just now. Tim Hardaway Jr. did things, too. And that is it. The 2013-2014 Knicks are over (except for the NIT, like nbanyk said), and the offseason begins now.
Mike Woodson: “Am I the guy for the job? I’m the only guy for the job.” #Knicks — Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) April 16, 2014 What do you say to that? You could have ripped off all your clothes and began simultaneously chugging grain alcohol and Mr. Pibb, and ran screaming, “WOOOOOOOODSON” as you hurtled into the oncoming traffic on the BQE (assuming you’re a city-dweller like me), or just collapsed in a giddy, delirious heap of uncontrollable laughter; either response would make complete and total sense.
“It should be fun,” said DeMar DeRozan after the intriguing first-round, best-of-seven matchup was set. “We’ve just got to go out there and play. Go out there, study the film, study them, get ready for them. We know we can beat them. We beat them twice this year and they beat them once without me playing. So like I said, it should be fun. “We understand that they’re experienced and everything but hey, who isn’t? Once you come in this league you’re going against players all season that are experienced in some way. You just have to find a way to win.”
s”In my experience, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for,” Dwane Casey cautioned ahead of Wednesday’s finale. “You think you want to play a certain team then you start preparing for them and say, ‘wow that team’s pretty good’. Then you’ve got a dogfight. I think the best way to approach it is let the basketball gods decide.” Faced with a similar decision, Casey – who was an assistant in Dallas when he and Kidd won a championship together in 2011 – chose to play his stars against the Knicks and compete to win. That’s just one of the factors that separate these two teams, that creates a trace of animosity going into this weekend’s first-round matchup. Whether they care to admit to it or not, the Nets took their foot off the gas in the hope of maximizing the odds of facing an inexperienced Raptors team. Whether Toronto’s players or coaches care to admit it, that’s a slap in the face, or at least it should be.
“I want Brooklyn, personally,” Ross wrote. Now Ross will get his chance, after the combination of the Nets losing to the Cavaliers and the Wizards winning in Boston Wednesday night meant the Nets, who dropped to the sixth seed, will face the third-seeded Raptors beginning Saturday afternoon in Toronto. The Nets haven’t forgotten what Ross said. “Ross asked for this,” Andray Blatche said after Wednesday’s 114-85 loss to the Cavaliers, in which coach Jason Kidd sat all his starters. “So now, first of all, they’ve got to back up their words. “Right now, we’re going to go home, get prepared for Toronto. … We were able to rest some of our key guys, so we’re going to start practicing and going over our strategy tomorrow.”
Cole Aldrich made the tiebreaking dunk with 1:23 left for the Knicks, who won their final four games to finish 37-45. J.R. Smith scored 30 points, while Aldrich finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Kyle Lowry scored 22 points in 26 minutes for the Raptors, who finished 48-34. The Knicks charged back to tie at 74 entering the fourth by outscoring the Raptors 30-17 in the third. The game became meaningless during the period when Charlotte finished off an overtime victory over Chicago, meaning the Raptors could do no worse than finish tied with the Bulls. Toronto owned the tiebreaker as a division champion.
Everyone going to the game better be loud on Saturday so we can take Game 1 against that squad from Brooklyn.
“It kind of sets the tone for how you want your career to go,” Ross said. “So now you want to do more to make sure this becomes more consistent. You know it is going to be harder, so you just work that much harder to stay ahead of the curve.” It’s been a long time since anyone in a Raptors locker room talked about striving for 50 wins – can’t remember it ever happening – but after this season, it doesn’t sound all that farfetched. This team is young, willing to work hard and really does pull for one another. “All it takes is the right chemistry and the right group of guys and you can do whatever it takes,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You don’t need big name players, you don’t need this or that what people say you need and we are proof of that. We will continue to keep growing and keep learning and keep building and on to the next step.”
This is a showcase for the new, Drake-abetted Raptors. The pop star had a large hand in the look and feel of the campaign, stopping in regularly for brainstorming sessions at home and on the road. “He inspired our thinking here,” Leiweke said. Whatever you make of it, you will admit the last word it summons to mind is “corporate.” This feels like work produced by an especially athletic art school. One that does a lot of daytime things in the middle of the night.
I can’t understand why the Raptors’ success hasn’t produced more buzz. Just 12 months ago, NBA writers were brainstorming new and creative ways to mock the decisions of president Bryan Colangelo, as Toronto finished 34-48 and missed the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. And now? Toronto has claimed the Atlantic Division title, secured home-court advantage in the first round, placed swingman DeMar DeRozan (22.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists) on the All-Star team and in the Most Improved Player discussion, and enjoyed an All-Star-caliber season from point guard Kyle Lowry (17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds).
The goal is to have the new one completed “no later than late 2015” and MLSE will be working with Drake, its global ambassador, on putting a nightclub in the arena (as is the case in Miami), likely in the space currently occupied by the practice court.
However, for general Masai Ujiri, this season was never about wins or losses. Obviously that can get contorted as the games gain meaning at an exponential rate. Still, Ujiri’s job is to assess how good these Raptors are, and how good they can be. This summer will bring about a bunch of major decisions for Ujiri to make — not only addressing free agents Dwane Casey and Kyle Lowry, but also judging the value of his younger core players — and he is about to get a lot of useful data to assist him. There is no risk of the Raptors sneaking past another team, such as the Wizards or Bobcats, who might be a one-season wonder taking advantage of a messed up conference — just as some critics have painted the Raptors. The Nets are drenched in playoff experience: There are too many ridiculous statistics to choose from, but the Brooklyn rotation has played approximately 10.4 times the post-season minutes than the Raptors’ rotation. It is staggering.
“I’m tired of going home early, watching everybody else play, watching my friends play,” swingman DeMar DeRozan said that day. “It’s sickening to me. I get tired of it. Me personally, I work my ass off so we can play in that moment, be a team in that eight, seven, six, whatever spot it is to have an opportunity to play. That’s my goal and I’m sure everybody on this team feels the same way.” It turned out DeRozan could’ve aimed higher. The Raptors are the Eastern Conference’s big surprise, and they’ll be the third or fourth seed when the postseason begins. How they got there was nothing short of extraordinary, especially in this city where expectations and bold plans have never lived up to the hype.
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