NEW YORK, Dec. 25 (Ticker) --
The New York Knicks may not have gained complete revenge, but they likely gained some much-needed confidence.
scored a season-high 34 points, including a key three-point play, and the Knicks snapped their four-game home losing streak with a 102-94 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto eliminated New York in five games in the first round of the playoffs a year ago, the only first-round loss in former coach Jeff Van Gundy's tenure.
Since Van Gundy resigned on December 8, the Knicks have struggled under new coach Don Chaney, and their home skid was their longest since March 1990.
"We have had so many close games at home this year that come down to the last two minutes or so and we let them slip away," Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell
said. "It feels good to finally win one."
New York, which played without injured forward Marcus Camby,
led by as many as 20 points in the first quarter, but the lead slowly slipped away in what has become a custom for the Knicks. Toronto climbed within 58-54 on a basket by Vince Carter
with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
The Raptors drew even closer in the fourth when Carter drained two free throws with 3:23 remaining to cut the deficit to 88-87. But Houston came through with a running one-handed jumper that rolled on the rim before falling through.
Houston, who was fouled by Morris Peterson
on the play, added the free throw and Mark Jackson
had a pair from the line with 2:21 remaining for a 93-87 advantage.
Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens felt that Houston pushed off on his three-point play. He fell to 0-7 on Christmas Day.
"Down the stretch, you're not going to get calls," he said. "It's a four-point game and Houston knocks Mo Pete off of him. It's an obvious call to me. You can't expect to get calls."
New York trailed just once, when Alvin Williams
scored the game's first basket, and took its largest lead at 28-8 on a jumper by Sprewell with 2:22 left in the first quarter. Sprewell scored 13 of his 21 points in the first.
"In the beginning, we gave them way too many good looks," Wilkens said. "And they shoot the ball too well, especially Sprewell and Houston. If you let them get those kind of looks early, you have to dig yourselves out of a hole."
Houston had 18 points at the half as the Knicks shot 48 percent (21-of-44) and took a 54-42 lead into the locker room.
"I thought he was a little more aggressive, taking the shots and creating the space for shots," Chaney said. "The biggest thing tonight more than anything else is that he didn't take a vacation in any quarter."
"It felt good," Houston said. "It felt like it was long overdue. I have to do my job all-around instead of just shooting."
Peterson led Toronto with 22 points and Williams finished with 18. Carter added 15, but scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half.
"Their defense was tremendous," Carter said. "They brought high intensity and we didn't match their intensity in the first quarter. Every time I was driving to the basket, there was a man there."
The Raptors played without starting center Hakeem Olajuwon,
yet still held a 40-38 rebounding edge over the Knicks. Antonio Davis
grabbed 11 boards and Williams added seven.
New York received a boost from seldom-used center Travis Knight,
who grabbed 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. Othella Harrington
netted 16 points and Mark Jackson
handed out 11 assists for the Knicks, who made 7-of-12 shots from beyond the arc.
"I thought for the most part, we were very alert in terms of following the game plan," Chaney said. "I thought we executed the way we should execute."