NEW YORK—The Toronto Raptors still can get home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
If not, at least they know they are better than ever on the road.
DeMar DeRozan converted a tie-breaking three-point play with 1:05 left, on a night he became Toronto’s No. 2 career scorer, as the Raptors beat the N.Y. Knicks 93-89 on Sunday to stay alive for the No. 1 seed in the East.
DeRozan finished with 27 points as the Raptors pulled within two games of Cleveland with two to play for both teams.
Toronto won the season series and owns the tie-breaker if the teams finish with the same record.
But the Raptors aren’t caught up in that after setting a franchise record with 23 road victories.
“In this league, you’ve got to be able to win at home and win on the road,” DeRozan stressed.
“Sometimes the road is bigger and I think we just like that pressure of having our backs against the wall, and I think that’s why we play so well on the road,” he added.
Kyle Lowry scored 15 points while Jonas Valanciunas had 14 for the Raptors, who close with games against Philadelphia and Brooklyn—the two worst teams in the East.
Cleveland finishes against playoff-bound Atlanta and Detroit.
DeRozan has 9,426 points and moved ahead of Vince Carter (9,420). He now trails only Chris Bosh (10,275) on the Raptors’ career list.
“Right now, it’s just another accolade to add to our list of things that we’ve done this year,” Lowry noted.
“As a group and as individuals, we’ll all look at everything we’ve done this year after the season’s over.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points in just 25 minutes in the Knicks’ final home game of the season.
DeRozan and Lowry returned to the lineup after sitting out against Indiana on Friday, but the Raptors started poorly and could never shake the Knicks even when the all-star guards turned it on in the second half.
The Knicks raced out to a 21-10 lead, but Toronto recovered to take a 54-51 edge into halftime—then built its own double-digit advantage that the Knicks wiped away in the fourth quarter.
Toronto had won 22 road games in each of the last three seasons.