New York has struggled since the All-Star break, dropping six of seven games before Wednesday’s 88-77 victory over Philadelphia. Many of those problems have been attributed to a lack of chemistry since the team traded away Keith Van Horn while acquiring Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed during the break.
However, Wednesday night, New York finally started to look in sync. Stephon Marbury had 36 points and 10 assists, and Thomas added 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Knicks overcame a poor night by Allan Houston, who shot 2-for-13 in his second game back after missing 13 with a sore knee.
Marbury connected with Thomas for a huge dunk in the fourth quarter that electrified the Madison Square Garden crowd and may have signified the start of good things for New York.
“That one surprised me,” Marbury said. “All it takes is time. Once you play with someone, you get the feel of where they want the ball. The more and more we play together, the better we’re going to get.”
The victory came after the Knicks completed an 0-4 road trip. They have dropped six straight away from home since winning at Miami on Feb. 7.
A trip to Toronto could be a good way for New York to end its road woes, considering the Raptors have lost six in a row at home.
Toronto has lost 10 of 11 overall. After snapping a nine-game skid on Tuesday with a victory over Miami, the Raptors went back to their losing ways on Wednesday in an 84-70 loss at Washington.
Toronto looked good in the first half as Vince Carter scored 12 of his 16 points before halftime. However, Carter’s troublesome ankle tightened up in the second half and the Raptors fell apart offensively.
Having played 41 minutes Tuesday, Carter started to fade after scoring eight of Toronto’s first 10 points.
“I couldn’t get much lift in the second half,” Carter said. “What killed me was halftime. Having time to relax, it stiffened up on me.”
With 20 games left, Toronto and New York are in a tight race with four other teams for the Eastern Conference’s final few playoff spots. The Raptors are only a half-game behind the Knicks for sixth place.
“We have a lot riding on these last 20-plus games, so I’m just going to go play and not worry about it,” Carter said of his injury.
STANDINGS (through March 3): Knicks - 2nd place, 11 GB, Atlantic Division. Raptors - 5th place, 19 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Knicks - Marbury, 20.9 ppg and 8.8 apg; Kurt Thomas, 8.5 rpg. Raptors - Carter, 21.2 ppg and 4.8 apg; Marshall, 9.5 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 19; Knicks, 90-79. At New York, Marbury had 28 points and 14 assists to lead the Knicks. Jalen Rose had 22 points and Marshall added 21 points and 15 rebounds for Toronto, which was playing without an injured Carter.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Knicks - 10-20 on the road; Raptors - 14-15 at home.