Knicks 109, Raptors 103

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TORONTO (AP)—The New York Knicks wanted to win this one for Lenny Wilkens.

Stephon Marbury scored 35 points and Nazr Mohammed had a season-high 20 points and 18 rebounds to make Wilkens a winner in his return to Toronto with a 109-103 victory Friday night.

Wilkens returned to Toronto for the first time since being fired after last season. Fans booed his introduction.

“I think coach Wilkens was really hurt by the reception that he got,” New York’s Penny Hardaway said. “They way they treated him was disrespectful, so we definitely had to get this one for coach. I looked at his face when they booed. I could tell he was like ‘What can I do?”’

Wilkens said he didn’t take it personally.

“When you start taking things personal, let me tell you something, you’re going to be in trouble as a person and I don’t do that,” he said. “I’m not vindictive. I move on. I was happy to see Vince Carter play. He was playing healthy, that’s great.”

Carter said the game had passed Wilkens by when he was fired after the injury-plagued 24-58 season.

New York moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Toronto for sixth place in the Eastern Conference by ending a six-game road losing streak, winning away from home for the first time since Feb. 7 at Miami.

“I was very happy for Lenny. The fans really don’t know what’s going on, and they really don’t know about coaching,” Marbury said. “He’s the all-time winningest coach. He’s a Hall of Fame player and coach. He should get respect all the time.”

Carter had 32 points and nine assists for the Raptors, who have lost 11 of 12. Rod Strickland, signed by the Raptors earlier in the day, shot just 2-for-10.

New York outrebounded Toronto 49-37, including 19-8 on the offensive glass.

“It’s really hard to beat anybody when you give up 20 offensive boards,” Toronto coach Kevin O’Neill said.

Carter’s layup gave Toronto a 12-point lead in the third quarter, but New York went on a 15-2 run as Marbury had nine points to give the Knicks their first lead of the game.

Donyell Marshall’s 3-pointer tied the game with 5:07 left in the fourth, but Allan Houston made a fadeaway, Marbury made two free throws and Hardaway grabbed an offensive rebound before Houston’s 3-pointer gave New York a 104-97 lead with 2:56 left.

Carter made two jumpers before Strickland and Marshall missed 3-pointers that would have cut the Raptors’ deficit to two. Mohammed made two free throws to put New York ahead 108-101 with 15 seconds left.

Houston added 16 points for the Knicks.

“I’m sure Lenny will tell you what it was more about winning because we’re the sixth seed, but it was a big win for so many reasons,” Houston said. “We’re trying to separate ourselves, and when you come in and win with Lenny’s history here it does feel good.”

Carter had 16 points as Toronto scored a season-high 35 in the firstquarter. Toronto led by as many as 11 in the first half.

Notes

Wilkens showed some emotion while speaking with reporters before the game. When a Toronto Star columnist asked what kind of a reaction he expected from the crowd, Wilkens didn’t answer. The columnist repeated the question and asked Wilkens if he understood it. “I understand the question. I don’t have anything to say to you, OK. I just don’t,” Wilkens said. When the columnist said he was doing his job, Wilkens responded: “You’re job doesn’t include being vindictive.” The columnist, a frequent critic of Wilkens during his time in Toronto, wrote a piece in Friday’s paper that said Wilkens was to blame forToronto’s and New York’s struggles.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New York
S. Marbury S. Marbury
12-21,  35 Pts
4 Rebs, 9 Assists
 Toronto
V. Carter V. Carter
12-25,  32 Pts
2 Rebs, 9 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists