Jamesí 37 Lead Raptors Over Knicks
Toronto 114, New York 109
NEW YORK, March 21 (Ticker) -- With more games like this, Mike James will be garnering the same sort of attention as point guard counterparts Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis.
James scored 37 points in a terrific all-around effort to lead the Toronto Raptors to their fourth win in five games, a 114-109 victory over the New York Knicks.
In the final year of his contract, James is having the best season of his career, averaging career highs of 18.8 points and 5.6 assists.
In his fifth season and with his sixth team, James could get a hefty raise in the summer. But after his sixth game of 30-plus points this season, he downplayed any speculation of his future.
"I'm just worried about playing the game right now," James said. "I'm not really concerning myself with the offseason. I know the summer is right around the corner, there's only a few games left. But my main thing is trying to finish the season strong and that's my only focus right now. ... If I completely flop right now, you know nobody is going to come calling me. So I understand my main thing is just finish and continue to play the game the right way.
"I just got to keep working. I can't worry about what's going on. It's not about scoring, it's about winning. Nobody really cares about a person putting up numbers if they're not winning. My main thing is just trying to play the game the right way and help my team win."
Knicks coach Larry Brown is familiar with James, a reserve for the coach two years ago during Detroit's run to the NBA championship.
"I've just been watching him all year," Brown said. "He's had phenomenal nights, phenomenal shooting nights. He had it going and the fact is it's hard to guard a lot of these perimeter guards."
In falling one point shy of his career high, James made 12-of-22 shots, including 7-of-11 3-pointers. He added eight rebounds and five assists as he did most of his damage against Marbury and Francis, both of whom have made multiple appearances in the All-Star Game.
"I just took advantage of my opportunities when they came. I just knocked down some shots and got into a rhythm early," James said. "The main thing was just winning this game tonight."
In the first half, James made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points to help Toronto to a 55-53 lead. In the third quarter, he was even better, draining three shots from behind the arc and scoring 17 points - all in a 22-10 spurt - as the Raptors widened the advantage to 86-76 entering the final period.
James also had a rare four-point play with 2:55 remaining, pushing the lead to 83-72.
"We were just running good plays," James said. "When we have so many weapons like Morris Peterson, Charlie (Villanueva) on our perimeter, you just can't key on one player and we have so many players that can step up and knock down shots where guys really can't help that much on defense. So it was allowing me to be able to get open and knock down some shots."
"It was real exciting," Bosh added. "He can score the basketball, guys know that. He got hot real quick and we just kept making plays."
Starting together in the backcourt, Marbury had 14 points and six assists and Francis added 10 and three.
A Long Island native, James was quiet in the final period, when Bosh took over, scoring 16 points to keep the Knicks at bay. The All-Star power forward made 12-of-21 shots overall and scored seven straight Toronto points early in the period after the Knicks sliced the deficit to 86-81.
"Sometimes when I have 1-on-1 (matchups), teams don't do a good job of either doubling or clogging the paint up and it works into my advantage," Bosh said. "So I just stayed aggressive and shot my open shots and just played basketball."
"I really played well for three quarters and then in the fourth quarter I didn't do too much," James said. "But that's when Chris Bosh took over and when you have a somebody like that and when you have so many guys when one guy's not doing it, another guy can step up."
Villanueva scored 15 points and Peterson added 11 for Toronto, which shot 46 percent (39-of-84) as it won for just the second time in its last 11 visits to Madison Square Garden. The Raptors won despite missing 15 free throws and getting outrebounded, 44-35.
"There's no such thing as a bad win, especially on the road," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "We were fortunate to make the mistakes that we made and still win the game."
Rookie Channing Frye scored 19 points and Jamal Crawford added 16 off the bench for the Knicks (19-47), who have lost two in a row following a two-game winning streak.
In the fourth quarter, Frye had to be helped from the court after Raptors guard Andre Barrett tripped and went headfirst into Frye's left knee. X-rays were negative, but Frye has a sprained ligament and will not play Wednesday in Orlando.
"Anytime anyone gets hurt, you always feel bad because at any moment it can be you," Marbury said. "I just told him to stay up. You are going to get hurt, you are going to have surgeries, it's a part of the game."
"I kind of knew something happened because I hit him hard," Barrett said. "And when I tripped, I couldn't control myself and he's just standing there."