Raptors rout Knicks to level playoff series


Vince Carter finally found reason to smile during a playoff game. As the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden started streaming out with about eight minutes left in a lopsided game, Carter sidled up to former teammate Mark Jackson with a wide grin and whispered in his ear for a few seconds. “That was not taunting or anything,” Carter said after he had 22 points and seven rebounds as the Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks 94-74 Thursday night to even the first-round series 1-1. “I was just having a good time.” He’s not used to feeling that way in the postseason, where Toronto had been 0-4, including last season’s sweep by New York as Carter made just 30 percent of his shots. “We have a new slate. There are not that many guys who were here last year and a part of that bad memory,” Carter said. “This is big for us: Our first playoff win as a franchise and my first playoff win. So I hope it’s a confidence-builder.” Alvin Williams — who played less than a minute in all of last season’s series against New York — scored 23 points Thursday night for the Raptors, who take home-court advantage into Sunday’s Game 3 at Toronto. Antonio Davis had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Charles Oakley added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Toronto held a 48-36 rebounding edge and outshot New York from the field (45 percent to 39 percent). Kurt Thomas led the Knicks with 23 points and 12 rebounds. But Latrell Sprewell — often matched one-on-one with Carter — scored just six points on 3-for-12 shooting, and New York’s other All-Star, Allan Houston, scored 10. Marcus Camby, playing three days after his mother and two sisters were held hostage at their home in Connecticut, had two points and two rebounds in 31 minutes. “They out-everythinged us,” Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “We didn’t have anybody other than Kurt play well enough to win a playoff game. It starts with me — I’ve got to have them better prepared to win — and it trickles down to them. They have to play better to win.” Toronto’s Lenny Wilkens, the coach with the most victories in NBA history, threw several new wrinkles at New York.

He started point guard Chris Childs (five points, seven assists before leaving with a pulled hamstring), moved Williams to shooting guard, gave Morris Peterson only seven minutes as a reserve, and had power forward Jerome Williams guard Sprewell and Houston at times. “I’m not afraid to try anything,” Wilkens said. Unlike Game 1, when Carter went 5-for-22 from the field and was scoreless over the final 8 1/2 minutes, he was aggressive down the stretch Thursday. He scored 16 points after halftime despite picking up his third foul with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. “We gave him the baseline. We gave him the middle. We gave him some jumpers,” Van Gundy said. “With great players, you can’t give them everything.”