It must be tough for losing teams to stay motivated down the stretch. While the Toronto Raptors don’t appear to be giving up, the New York Knicks just don’t seem to have enough depth to stay competitive.
Coming off one of their biggest victories of the season, the Raptors look to win six straight for the first time in over two years as they kick off a home-and-home series with the banged-up Knicks on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto (29-45) is virtually out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, trailing eighth-place Chicago by six games with eight to play. New York (29-46) and Washington (18-59) are the only teams that have a worse record than the Raptors in the conference.
Still, Toronto has managed to put together its longest run of the season and has a chance for its first six-game winning streak since Feb. 4-15, 2007. Though the Raptors are far out of the playoff picture, they’re still playing as though they have a chance.
“It’s not bittersweet. It’s not over,” All-Star forward Chris Bosh said. “It’s not over yet. We’re going to keep playing, see what happens. We still have a chance.”
Bosh had 24 points to lead the Raptors to a 99-95 win over East powerhouse Orlando on Wednesday night, making a 22-footer with 29 seconds left that put the game out of reach.
Toronto is playing loose and intends to finish the season strong.
“We’re in a great situation,” point guard Jose Calderon said. “We’re just playing. We’ve got five (wins) in a row now and we’ve got to keep working until the last day.”
Calderon had 21 points versus the Magic following a 22-point effort in a 134-129 overtime win over the Bulls on Sunday night. He’s averaging 10.5 assists in two games against the Knicks this season, with each team winning once at home.
New York returns to Madison Square Garden following a winless three-game trip, which concluded with a 111-104 loss to Denver on Tuesday night. It was the Knicks’ ninth defeat in 10 games.
New York faced the Nuggets without swingman Larry Hughes, who sprained his right ankle in a 112-104 loss at Utah on Monday night. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni believes Hughes could return Saturday.
Hughes is averaging 12.5 points in 19 games since being acquired in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 19. He has been filling in for Quentin Richardson, who has missed three straight games with a sprained left ankle and is listed as questionable.
Knicks center Eddy Curry, attempting to play down the stretch after missing most of the season with a knee injury, may miss his second straight game. He played two minutes at Charlotte last Saturday night and seven against the Jazz before sitting out Tuesday.
It’s uncertain if Curry will have a large role next season as D’Antoni continues the rebuilding process. Danilo Gallinari is certainly among the key players in New York’s plans for the future, but the Knicks didn’t get much of a chance to see the rookie forward play this season.
Gallinari, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, will have back surgery next week. The injury limited him to 28 games.
Gallinari is expected to make a full recovery in six to eight weeks. He has played with Raptors center Andrea Bargnani on the Italian national team.
Bargnani, the top pick in the 2006 draft, is averaging career highs of 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s posted 23.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against New York this season.
The Raptors and Knicks will meet again Sunday night at Toronto.