Raps hold off Knicks comeback

MIKE GANTER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

NEW YORK — Those 23-point losses can be humbling, but they can be instructive too.

Four nights after the Raptors gave one back in Indiana after leading by that margin, a similar scenario began to play itself out Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Only this time, the Raptors took the first punch and punched back.

A 28-point Toronto lead at one point got whittled all the way down to eight in the fourth quarter but never any closer as the Raps showed some resolve in holding off the hard-charging Knicks for a 112-104 win and a .500 record once again.

“I think we learned something from Indiana,” Chris Bosh said. “Even though they did make runs, we didn’t get too, too out of whack. We kept that in our minds. We were all business at half time, we didn’t feel like we had done anything. I know I didn’t at least. We just have to keep that same focus for the whole game. We started out that third quarter well but we fell off a bit there.”

The Knicks were stone-cold from the field in the first half but led by Danilo Gallinari and a red-hot Al Harrington in the second, made things interesting.

Were it not for the equally hot night from Andrea Bargnani, who really rose to the occasion on Italian Heritage Night at Madison Square Garden, Gallinari and Harrington, with 26 and 31 respectively, might have stole this one back.

Bargnani led all Raptors with 24 points and 12 rebounds in one of his best all-around games as a Raptor. The fact that the game was being televised live back in Italy might have played into that except Bargnani has been on a roll like this for the better part of the last three weeks.

“The strong start was a big part of the victory,” Bargnani said referring to the 19-point lead after a quarter. “We had three days without a game so we had a lot of energy at the beginning and we were ready to jump on them.”

Bargnani showed just how much he wanted it when he stepped out of character early in the first quarter on a driving dunk down the lane. When he came down he turned to the Raptors bench and screamed his approval, which got all his teammates up and into the game.

“I was just happy,” Bargnani said of his theatrics. “We started very strong. I had the drive with the dunk. I was happy.”

The Knicks’ David Lee took exception to the celebration mocking it with one of his own as he got right in Bargnani’s face. Bargnani said it was a complete misunderstanding.

“He thought I was screaming at him,” Bargnani said. “We talked. He is a very cool guy.”

In addition to Bargnani’s team high 24, the Raptors got 21 off the bench from Jose Calderon and 19 from DeMar DeRozan, who attacked the basket with abandon all night going to the line a season high 14 times.

“He was super aggressive,” Bosh said of DeRozan. “He got to the line a bunch, more than I did. That was amazing. We need him to play like that a lot more. Just be athletic like he is and play well on defence.”


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