Andrea Bargnani

Like Melo’s botched dunk, Knicks tried to rise but fell flat

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NEW YORK  — Even Carmelo Anthony laughed at his muffed stuff, when he didn’t jump high enough on his dunk attempt, slammed the ball into the rim and tumbled backward to the foul line.

Not so funny for Anthony and the Knicks is how perfectly Tuesday’s blooper summed up their season.

They tried to climb high and instead fell flat on their backs.

Another season has gone from hopeful to hopeless in a New York minute, as the Knicks have dropped out of realistic playoff contention by losing 15 of 18. They looked like one of the NBA’s most improved teams when they were 22-22, and now they just look like one of the worst.

“Everything just shifted all of a sudden,” Anthony said following a 104-85 loss to Portland.

And it happened so quickly, so unexpectedly that Anthony said this season is even tougher than last, when the Knicks finished with a franchise-worst 17-65 record.

Back then, they knew they were building from the bottom. This time, they thought they had escaped it.

“We looked a while back – not even a while back, a couple of weeks ago – and we sat in the locker room, and we were I think a game (behind) or even tied with Boston at one point in time,” Anthony said. “So we had some momentum going, it just went downhill from then. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, it just went downhill from there.”

Boston is now third in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks (25-37) are third from the bottom.

Anthony is frustrated, telling a heckling fan he should ask Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan for his money back, a response for which he apologized on Wednesday.

Everyone might want a refund after the last few weeks.

Team President Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach but missed on his first attempt in hiring one, firing Derek Fisher last month after just 1 1/2 seasons. Jackson did well with the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis and did upgrade the roster but not enough to take the pressure off Anthony.

Even Porzingis’ play has tailed off lately, and that combined with the Knicks’ collapse probably ended any chance the Latvian had of beating Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns for Rookie of the Year.

Porzingis, like Anthony, can’t explain exactly what happened.

“It’s not one thing that went wrong, just can’t really pinpoint something,” Porzingis said. “It’s just maybe a few little things just adding up to each other and we’re not playing the way we should be playing and things are not going our way. But I think going through these tough times, this will make us stronger as we go forward.”

For now, they’re going nowhere. Fans booed loudly in the second half of Tuesday’s loss, save for the cheers for Jimmer Fredette as he played out the end of his 10-day contract.

And since the Knicks are no longer playing good basketball, they can’t hide the bad story lines that inevitably surround the team. Before his exchange with the fan, Anthony and former teammate Amare Stoudemire seemed to take swipes at each other, though neither mentioned the other’s name.

Jackson had to clarify a tweet that he meant as an observation about Stephen Curry but read like a comparison or even criticism, saying the NBA MVP’s game resembled former but far-less-accomplished guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

Anthony and Porzingis wouldn’t write off this season, but the damage appears to have been done. The Knicks will need to turn their attention to the summer, when Jackson will try to bolster the roster further without a first-round pick (dealt to Toronto in the failed Andrea Bargnani trade) and perhaps hire another coach if he doesn’t decide to stick with Kurt Rambis.

Perhaps he may try to trade Anthony, who has to approve any deal and has shown no interest in leaving New York. But headed toward a third straight season with no playoff appearance after never missing them previously, Anthony isn’t happy with the way things are going here.

“It gets frustrating,” Anthony said. “The losing gets frustrating.”

 

Kyle Lowry scores career-high 43 as Raptors beat Cavaliers, 99-97

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry had a big smile after capping off a career night by hitting the clinching basket in the closing seconds.

Lowry finished with a career-best 43 points to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers 99-97 Friday night.

“My first game winner in my illustrious 10-year career,” he said, noting that he was at Villanova that last time he’d done that.

Terrence Ross added 15 for Toronto, which won its 10th straight at home to tie a franchise record previously set between March 24 and Nov. 4, 2002.

LeBron James, who scored 25, had a chance to win the game with a late 3-pointer, but his shot missed the rim completely as time expired.

Kevin Love added 20 for the Cavaliers, who had their lead over Atlantic Division-leading Toronto in the East cut to two games, and conceded the playoff seeding tie-breaker to Toronto, with the Raptors clinching the season series 2-1.

Lowry played down his individual effort though, which bettered the 41 he put up against Golden State on Dec. 5.

“The bigger deal is that we won the game, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I think we grew tonight but we’ve got the team to get better. Now we’ve put our efforts into Detroit and worry about Detroit.”

Lowry’s 15-for-20 performance also helped make up for an ineffective night from the team’s top scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms and was held to a season-low six points.

Dwane Casey had insisted all day that this top-two matchup was just another game, and not a possible playoff preview, and he refused to change his tune following the victory.

“Again, it is just one game,” he said. “If we come back and stub our toe on Sunday (against the Pistons)what does it mean? Nothing, zero, it is one of 82.”

In the Cleveland dressing room, Love disagreed about the importance of the game.

“Anybody who says it wasn’t is lying to you,” he said when asked if it was a big game, particularly with the playoff tiebreaker on the line. “We knew coming in it was going to be a hostile environment away from home, they’re a very good team and had won nine in a row before tonight so we knew they were going to be tough to beat and it was no different.”

Despite leading for almost the entire game, Cleveland faltered down the stretch, allowing Toronto to tie the game with 3:03 left courtesy of a 9-0 run over 90 seconds. For James, it was the kind of performance the team has to learn from.

“It’s mental mistake after mental mistake and those hurt more than anything when you can play better mentally,” he said. “People get so caught up in the physical side of the game, we lack mental (strength) right now and we’ve got to continue to get better with it.”

THROWING THOMAS

Former NFL MVP and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas was at the game, zipping signed footballs into the crowd with the kind of compact spirals that almost made you forget the Buffalo Bills great was a running back and not a quarterback.

BENCH MARK

The Raptors’ reserves combined to outscore the Cavaliers’ backups 37-23, highlighted by 15 from Ross and another 11 from Bismack Biyombo.

MILESTONE MAN

DeRozan appeared in his 500th game with Toronto on Friday, becoming the fourth Raptors player to reach the milestone – joining Morris Peterson, Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh. He received a video tribute and a standing ovation when the milestone was announced in the first quarter.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (left knee) sat out the game. … Cleveland is 43 of 86 from 3-point range against the Raptors this season, well above its season average of 10.1 made 3s per game. When asked if he looked for a certain number of 3s, coach Tyronn Lue said, “Not a number just open 3s. We don’t want to force shots and take really quick shots contested, but when we get our chance to get our shot and take our shot we want to take it.”

Raptors: With his two 3-pointers, Lowry tied Andrea Bargnani (579) for second on the franchise’s all-time list, and now trails only Peterson (801). … Valanciunas left game in third quarter after being elbowed in the ribs by James and headed to the dressing room for a rib/diaphragm exam. He returned to the bench later in the quarter and was back on the floor in the fourth. … Toronto has now won 26 consecutive games when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points, the second-longest streak in team history, and one shy of tying the franchise record.

 

Lowry helps Raptors beat Magic 106-103 in OT in London

Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 24 points, Cory Joseph added 19 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Orlando Magic 106-103 in overtime Thursday night at O2 Arena.

DeMar DeRozan had 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Raptors win their fourth straight game.

Victor Oladipo scored 27 points, and Evan Fournier had 21 for Orlando. The Magic lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Lowry made two free throws to put Toronto up 105-100 with 43 seconds left in overtime, but Oladipo answered with a 3-pointer. After Lowry missed a shot, he stole the ball from Oladipo and was fouled by Tobias Harris. Lowry made one of two, making it a three-point game.

Nikola Vucevic‘s last-second shot from near halfcourt bounced off the rim.

Vucevic had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, and Harris had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Down 88-77 with 7:34 left, the Magic tied it at 96 on Oladipo’s jumper with 32.9 seconds left.

After a miss by Lowry, Oladipo had a chance to win it, but missed a 21-foot jumper with less than a second to go. A replay review gave possession to Orlando, but Jason Smith bounced a shot off the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending it to overtime.

Orlando’s Elfrid Payton came off the bench, returning after sitting out the past four games with a bruised left ankle. Forward Aaron Gordon played despite rolling his right ankle during practice Wednesday.

Before the game, and after the playing of “O Canada,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “God Save the Queen,” Lowry and Vucevic stood at center court and briefly spoke to the crowd, thanking the fans for their support.

TIP-INS

Raptors: The last time the Raptors visited London, back in March 2011, they lost in triple overtime to the Nets, a game where DeRozan and former Raptors center Andrea Bargnani both missed last-second shots.

Magic: Orlando came in 8-0 against Atlantic Division opponents. … G Shabazz Napier (illness) was not available.

Report: Nets strongly considering Bryan Colangelo as GM

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Jerry Colangelo insisted his son, Bryan Colangelo, wouldn’t join him with the 76ers.

Maybe that was because Bryan could get his own team to run.

Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

Former Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo is getting strong consideration for the Brooklyn Nets’ front office vacancy, according to league sources.

This would be the Nets’ most underwhelming general-manager selection since they hired Billy King.

King, of course, was just fired after after Brooklyn’s historic spending produced minimal results.

Colangelo has plenty of experience and seemingly good relationships with other general managers and agents. But so did King. The Nets don’t need a seemingly safe choice. They need a miracle.

Owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s stated goals remain ridiculously out of touch. Without its own first-round pick until 2019 and a roster short on talent, Brooklyn has an extremely narrow path to accomplish anything positive over the next few years – no matter which direction it chooses.

The Nets’ best bet is attracting top free agents, but that’s a huge longshot. Is Colangelo the person to maximize their chances? His tenure in Toronto, including giving DeMar DeRozan a then-controversial contract extension, looks a little better in hindsight. But Colangelo still signed Andrea Bargnani to a huge extension and traded for Rudy Gay. Colangelo’s record is mixed, and even that assessment might be generous.

Ultimately, it might not matter much whom the Nets hire. They need to gain perspective and take their lumps until they regain control of their picks.

They need an owner with a different philosophy and time.

The GM is relatively small potatoes.

Joakim Noah says he will be out 2-4 weeks with shoulder injury

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On Tuesday, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said that Joakim Noah would be out at least two weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered trying to defend Andrea Bargnani of the Brooklyn Nets Monday night. The idea was to re-evaluate him after a couple of weeks of rest and therapy.

Joakim Noah echoed that speaking with the media Wednesday, but put the potential of him missing more time out there.

Noah is a guy who has been willing to play hurt — even when he shouldn’t have — throughout his career. The question isn’t if he would come back as quickly as he could, but the Bulls need to get him right.

Noah is the emotional leader of the Bulls, and the team is their only defensive minded big. He hasn’t been their problem. Him being sidelined likely means more run for Pau Gasol, more small lineups, and if we’re lucky more Bobby Portis. But it certainly will hurt the Bulls in some matchups. The Bulls’ next game is Christmas Day against Oklahoma City.

There’s already plenty of dysfunction around the Bulls and this injury at this time could lead to more losses, and with the Bulls that means more squabbling and bickering.