Carter, Raptors finally succeed in playoffs

Distracted Knicks allow Toronto to even series

Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001

NEW YORK -- Vince Carter finally showed some spunk, and Lenny Wilkens showed he's not too old to come up with something creative.

Carter became a successful playoff performer for the first time Thursday night, turning from a timid player into a tough one as the Toronto Raptors routed the New York Knicks 94-74 to even their first-round series 1-1.

''This is big for us: Our first playoff win as a franchise and my first playoff win,'' Carter said, ''so I hope this was a confidence builder.''

Carter, coming off a poor performance in Game 1 that dropped his career postseason record to 0-4, went on an offensive tear in the second half to help the Raptors turn it into a rout.

Carter scored 22 points and got the better of Latrell Sprewell several times when they were matched one-on-one.

''I went up to him afterward and told him to remember this feeling,'' teammate Antonio Davis said. ''Now, at least, he knows.''

Tied 1-1, the series resumes Sunday at Toronto with the Raptors now holding homecourt advantage. They'll also be secure in the knowledge that Carter can perform under pressure and Wilkens isn't too old to try something new.

Toronto threw a different look at the Knicks, moving Chris Childs into the starting lineup, sliding Alvin Williams over to shooting guard and limiting rookie Morris Peterson to seven minutes in a reserve role.

Williams tied his career-high with 23 points and Childs had seven assists before leaving with a pulled hamstring late in the third as the Raptors were using a 31-15 run to pull away.

Wilkens also used power forward Jerome Williams at times to defend Sprewell and Houston. Sprewell shot just 3-for-12 and Houston was 5-for-11.

''I'm not afraid to try anything,'' said Wilkens, 63, the winningest coach in NBA history. ''The players were receptive and we had plenty of time to work on this.''

Carter was at his best during the second-half run. On one drive into the lane he looked like he was about to pass after leaving his feet looking at Alvin Williams, but instead turned and knocked down a running 14-footer for a 65-52 lead.

Carter blocked a shot by Othella Harrington on New York's next possession, then stepped back and stroked a 23-foot jumper early in the fourth to make it 68-52.

''On a couple of them I surprised myself,'' Carter said.

Carter followed that by blowing past Sprewell on consecutive drives. With Toronto ahead 74-54, he crept up next to Mark Jackson of the Knicks and whispered in his ear for several seconds, grinning the whole time.

''That was not taunting or anything,'' Carter said. ''I was just having a good time.''

The fans, however, weren't. And they showed as much by heading for the exits with six minutes left.

Kurt Thomas led the Knicks with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Marcus Camby, playing three days after his mother and two sisters were held hostage at their home in Connecticut, was clearly not himself and had just two points and two rebounds in 31 minutes.

Camby had just two points and no rebounds in 10 minutes of the first quarter, while Carter scored just four points in the first quarter on 2-for-5 shooting and Toronto led 20-16 after one.

Thomas scored on consecutive putbacks to pull the Knicks into a 35-35 tie, but the Raptors scored the final four points of the second quarter. Thomas led all scorers at the half with 15, while Williams led Toronto with 14.

Davis gave Toronto its first 10-point lead, 53-43 on a pair of foul shots with 7:17 left in the third, and Carter started getting aggressive shortly thereafter as Toronto built a 66-52 lead entering the fourth.

''We talked a lot about being ready and in tune, and we weren't. Everything we did well in Game 1 we didn't do well,'' Houston said. ''Our whole mentality was different.''

Former Knicks center Patrick Ewing sat courtside (three seats away from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones) and received a warm ovation from the crowd. Asked who he likes in the series, he said: ''I have friends on both teams, but I'm rooting for the Knicks. I still consider myself a Knick.''

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