NEW YORK (AP)—Sam Mitchell kept encouraging his Toronto Raptors to stay relaxed as New York fought back in the final minutes.
T.J. Ford didn’t need to hear to the message.
Ford had 20 points and 10 assists, and turned back the Knicks on a number of occasions down the stretch as the Raptors held on for a 103-100 victory Saturday night.
Chris Bosh had 26 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto, which won for the fourth time in five games. But it was the play of Ford down that stretch that allowed the Raptors to survive an inspired finish from Eddy Curry and improve to 2-8 on the road.
“I just understand that there’s two people who are going to have the ball, either me or Chris,” Ford said. “One of us has to make a play. And I just wanted to continue to build the confidence in my teammates to know that down the stretch, if we need a play or we need a shot … they’re going to have just as much confidence as I have in myself that I’m going to make the right play.”
Curry had 27 points, 11 in the final 4:49, but couldn’t prevent the Knicks from their fourth straight home loss. They opened a season-high six-game homestand by falling to 1-7 at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re very tentative and cautious at home,” said Knicks coach Isiah Thomas. “There’s an aggressiveness that we display out on the road, that for whatever reason we haven’t been able to overcome our fears of playing at home. It’s totally mental. It has nothing to do with physical. It’s definitely mental.”
Quentin Richardson had 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, but scored only two points in the final three quarters and missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the final minute. He was 5-of-9 in the first quarter but finished 6-for-18.
“I don’t think it was like a bubble burst,” Richardson said. “I am going to keep shooting. I got a short memory about my last shot so it doesn’t really matter to me. I missed shots before and I still used to come back and make them. That’s what’s disappointing—that I didn’t get a chance to come back and make them.”
Toronto seemed safely ahead after Ford’s 3-pointer as the shot clock expired made it 94-87 with under 5 1/2 minutes left. Rasho Nesterovic scored on the next possession for Toronto, but then Curry took over, pulling the Knicks within one on a powerful dunk over Bosh with 1:59 to play.
After a missed jumper by Jamal Crawford, Ford made two free throws to put Toronto up 99-96 with 1:17 left. Curry scored again 11 seconds later, but then Ford blew by his defender for a layup with 56 seconds to play. After Richardson’s missed 3, Ford hit a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining for a 103-98 advantage.
“That’s the biggest thing, when the home team scores you have to come back and score,” Bosh said. “And it’s not like we took any fadeaway shots, any tough shots. T.J. got layups. He attacked the basket.”
The improving Raptors won for the second consecutive night following Friday’s home victory over Boston. They’ve won two of their last three road games after losing their first seven.
“We found a way to get some stops at the right time, key rebounds,” Mitchell said. “It was a good win coming off the back-to-back.”
The Knicks started 0-for-5 with two turnovers and quickly trailed 11-1. The fans let out a sarcastic cheer when Curry made a free throw to finally put New York on the board with 8:19 remaining in the quarter.
The Knicks then hit nine of their next 11, sparked by Richardson’s four 3-pointers, and took a 31-29 lead into the second quarter when Renaldo Balkman dunked as time expired. Richardson and Bosh each had 14 points in the period.
Toronto scored nine straight, mostly from the line, to build an 11-point lead with just under 2 1/2 minutes left in the half, but the Knicks cut the lead to 64-60 on Crawford’s 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Raptors shot only 33 percent in a sloppy third quarter—and that was still better than the Knicks’ 32 percent effort. Toronto scored the final four points of the period and led 83-80 heading to the fourth.
The Raptors switched lineups again to better defend Curry, reinserting Nesterovic at center so Bosh wouldn’t have to do it. “Last time I looked over in that locker room they had a guy that weighed about 300 pounds,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “I think it would it would be too much to ask Chris to do it for 48 minutes so that’s what we got Rasho for, for nights like this. So it wouldn’t be very smart if we didn’t use him.” Nesterovic scored eight points and fouled out in 17 minutes. … Former Knicks Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing and John Starks, and former Syracuse star Dwayne “Pearl” Washington were among those honored at halftime for roles in the “MSG’s 50 Greatest Moments.” … Andrea Bargnani, Toronto’s No. 1 overall draft pick, said he ate at an Italian restaurant in June when he was here for the NBA draft. And how did the food compare to the cuisine back home? “It was OK,” Bargnani said.