Brooklyn Beats Bucks, but Knicks and Rangers Fall to Raptors and Caps

The Knicks led for most of the night against Toronto, but fell apart in the fourth quarter en route to another loss.

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Knicks Squander Lead Against Toronto
The Knicks’ hopes for a merry Christmas were pretty well dashed before they even hit the court on Wednesday, as Carmelo Anthony would prove unavailable after rolling his ankle Monday night. Despite missing their star, New York managed to stay close to the Thunder and even held a few leads over the course of the first quarter. In the waning minutes of the period, however, Oklahoma City pulled ahead and took a 35-29 lead into the second.

A 9-0 run to start the second quarter put OKC up by 15, and New York was never able to recover. Beno Udrih and Tyson Chandler got the Knicks back within 10 points of the lead with a pair of layups to start the second half, but they never got any closer than that. The Thunder led 87-67 after three, and went on to win the game by 29 points, 123-94.

Amar’e Stoudemire led in scoring with 22 points over 27 minutes off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot for 21, and JR Smith put up 20.

Melo was still conspicuously absent when the Knicks hosted the Atlantic-leading Raptors last night, but contributions from Hardaway, Andrea Bargnani, and Stoudemire saw them cruise ahead of Toronto early on and end the first quarter up 25-18.

A Hardaway three extended the New York lead to 10 in the second, and after the Raptors rallied to tie the score at 34 Smith led a 15-6 run to close out the half. The Knick lead hovered around 10 for much of the third, though Toronto did close within 3 near the period’s end; Stoudemire slammed in the final points of the frame to put New York up 71-66.

An 8-2 run to kick off the fourth gave Toronto its first lead of the second half with just over eight minutes left to play.  The Knicks stayed close for several minutes, but the Raptors began to pull ahead and eventually outshot their opponents 29-12 in the final period. The abysmal fourth-quarter performance handed New York a 95-83 loss.

Andrea Bargnani led the team in the loss with 18 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Smith who shot for 17. Udrih also posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Hardaway scored 15 as well.

The Knicks will play the Raptors again at 7:00 PM tonight in Toronto.

Nets Conquer Bucks
If the Nets have any designs on making it into the playoffs this year, they’ll have to do it without Brook Lopez who will sit the rest of the season out with a broken foot. They looked ready to forge on early Wednesday afternoon when they played a Bulls team which will be sans Derek Rose for yet another year, leading by as much as 7 in the first quarter. Chicago fought back, but Brooklyn still took a 23-21 lead into the second.

The Bulls tied the game right off the bat after play resumed, and the two fought over the lead for much of the second. Chicago had a 12-0 run which put them up by 8, but Deron Williams answered with 7-straight points of his own, helping Brooklyn to go into halftime down just 3, 41-38.

Brooklyn caught back up early in the third and even held a couple leads along the way, but the quarter proved fatal to the Nets as it has throughout the season. Chicago made an 11-0 run as they outscored the Nets by 16 in the period, ending with a 77-58 advantage before the fourth. The Nets could not catch up, and went on to lose 95-78.

Deron Williams led the Nets in scoring with 18 points, followed by Mirza Teletovic with 17 and Joe Johnson with 12. The team’s final tally of 78 points was a season-low, as was its 35.2 field goal percentage.

The Nets’ offense appeared revitalized early on against the Bucks last night. After Kevin Garnett capped off a 9-0 run to give them a substantive lead in the first quarter, contributions from across the court helped Brooklyn build a 31-18 lead by the end of the period. Williams alone put up 9 points.

Brooklyn’s lead grew as high as 19 in the second before Milwaukee started to chip away at it, cutting back within 9 at one point, but Garnett knocked in a pair of free throws to leave the half up 48-37. After the Nets went up by 17 again in the third quarter Milwaukee went on an 8-0 run, but Paul Pierce and Jason Terry put a swift end to the rally. Terry knocked in a trio of threes in just over two minutes, and the Nets took a 76-60 lead into the fourth.

The Bucks briefly pulled back within 9 late in the final quarter, but drew no closer than that. Brooklyn went on to win 104-93.

Shaun Livingston had a game-high 20 points and Teletovic shot for 19. Paul Pierce had 13 points, followed by Terry with 12, and Garnett with 10.

The Nets had a much-needed decisive win over the team with the worst record in the league, but they will face the team with the best record in the East next. Brooklyn plays Indiana at 7:00 PM tonight.

Rangers Fall in Washington
The Rangers ended a largely disappointing home stand with two straight wins, but got off to a poor start in their first road game in over 20 days. Mike Green put Washington on top last night with a slapshot 7 minutes into the first, and that lead held through the end of the period.

Benoit Pouliot tipped in the tying goal on a power play less than two minutes into the second, but Nicklas Backstrom put the Capitals back ahead with 1:05 to go on a wrist shot. Despite being a man down, New York was able to tie the score once more just 17 seconds into the final period on a Carl Hagelin backhanded shot; unfortunately, the Caps went up 3-2 with five minutes to go courtesy of Eric Fehr.

The Rangers had no answer, and fell by that score. Cam Talbot blocked 31 of 34 shots on the night.

New York will head to Tampa Bay next, at 7:00 PM on Sunday.