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Marbury, Knicks get back on track vs. Raptors

Mar 18, 2007 - 9:03 PM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Stephon Marbury and the New York Knicks finally found the formula for defeating the Toronto Raptors.

Marbury scored 12 of his 21 points in a decisive third-quarter surge also fueled by defense as the Knicks defeated the Raptors for the first time this season, 92-74.

Channing Frye scored 20 points for the Knicks (30-36), who climbed back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. New York moved into a tie for the final spot with rival New Jersey, which hosts the Los Angeles Clippers later Sunday.

"We have been waiting for something like that all season," Knicks guard Steve Francis said. "I don't think we had a great third quarter like that all year. Everyone was anxious and excited."

The Knicks had lost the first two meetings this season with the Raptors, including a 104-94 loss Wednesday at Toronto in which they allowed 60 points in the second half and squandered a 10-point lead.

Marbury had 31 points and nine assists in that contest but managed just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting in Friday's home loss to New Orleans. It was his first game in single digits since the All-Star break.

The star point guard had a pair of 3-pointers in an extended 27-5 stretch that gave the Knicks a 71-51 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. He also had four of his nine assists, showing the floor generalship he has displayed of late.

"We just played totally different," Marbury said. "Our mind-set on the defensive end from the beginning of the game was to make everything tough for them. I think everyone knows that has to be our mind-set for the remainder of these games we have coming up."

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas sat down foul-plagued center Eddy Curry and went with a smaller lineup that included the defensive-minded Jared Jeffries and rookie Renaldo Balkman. In addition to combining for nine points, they helped harass Raptors All-Star forward Chris Bosh with double-teams.

"I think this afternoon was a game where (Curry) maybe just didn't have it," Thomas said. "When he picked up his fourth foul, actually I told him it was a good thing because I wanted him to rest and be able to go for the fourth quarter. So I was glad I was able to have an excuse to sit him down and put the energy unit in."

Bosh was scoreless during the key stretch as Toronto made just 1-of-9 shots while committing seven turnovers. Balkman blocked a jumper by Juan Dixon and sprinted out for a dunk before Marbury's second 3-pointer capped the outburst.

"I just tried to give a lot of energy and go out there and play and don't let up, keep going at them because if we let up, we bring them back into the game," Balkman said. "I loved what I've seen from Renaldo the whole year," Thomas said. "Defensively, he can change the game."

Balkman had 15 points, 12 rebounds and three steals and Jeffries added eight, 10 and one for the Knicks, who shot 47 percent (39-of-83) from the field and allowed just 32 points in the second half.

"It's a big win for us," Balkman said. "They beat us bad last week and we let down. So I just kept reminding the guys, keep going and don't let down." Bosh scored 17 points for the Raptors, who shot just 34 percent (26-of-76) as they repeatedly settled for perimeter shots. They were 2-of-21 from the arc.

"We haven't had too many games where we got it handed it to us like it did today," Bosh said.

"One thing that we didn't do was give them second shots," Jeffries said. "We made them pay for shooting long shots. I think a lot of times teams shoot long shots and we give up offensive rebounds and they get comfortable shooting those shots."

Toronto also committed 19 turnovers, including seven by point guard T.J. Ford, who had a career-high 18 assists in Wednesday's win over New York. Ford had 14 points and three assists but was not much of a factor.

"We didn't shoot the ball well," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "We turned the ball over and guys forgot their plays this afternoon. It was just bad."

Despite the loss, the Raptors (36-31) remain firmly entrenched in first place in the weak Atlantic Division. They never have won a division title and are looking for their first postseason berth since 2002.

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