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Preview: Knicks at Raptors

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Toronto Raptors look to clinch the Atlantic Division for the second time in franchise history when they host a desperate New York Knicks team Friday night. Toronto has won four straight and seven of eight to get within a victory - or a Brooklyn Nets loss - of locking down the division for the first time since 2006-07. A win Friday would also match the club record for victories in a season, also accomplished in 2006-07 and in 2000-01.

New York's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread after back-to-back losses have left the Knicks two games behind Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony scored 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting in New York's 102-91 loss at Miami on Sunday. Anthony was injured and missed both ends of a home-and-home set against Toronto in December, watching as his team was swept to fall to 9-21.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), TSN2 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE KNICKS (33-45): While Anthony struggled at Miami in his second lackluster performance since suffering a shoulder injury, it was the J.R. Smith show for New York. The never-shy Smith made a franchise-record 10 3-pointers in an NBA-record 22 attempts, making it clear that as long as Anthony is off his game he will at least try to take matters into his own hands. Smith, who averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two losses to Toronto earlier this season, has gone 24-for-50 from long range in the last three games alone.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (46-32): There was one very big positive in Toronto's win over Philadelphia on Wednesday, as Kyle Lowry returned from a knee injury to score 29 points and hand out eight assists. Jonas Valanciunas finished with a career-best 26 points to go with 12 rebounds as he works his way back into the good graces of the organization following a DUI arrest earlier in the week. The Raptors enter this one tied in the standings with Chicago but would earn the tiebreaker and a No. 3 seed - thus avoiding a likely first-round matchup with Brooklyn - with the division crown.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Lowry had 32 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the previous meeting.

2. Valanciunas is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds during the Raptors' winning streak.

3. Anthony is 9-for-31 from the floor and has 10 turnovers in his two-game slump.

PREDICTION: Raptors 105, Knicks 97

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140411/preview-knicks-at-raptors