A .500 team is not what the Toronto Raptors want to be after 36 games. Falling to that level against the lowly New York Knicks would be particularly painful.
The Raptors (18-17) try to become the latest team to pin a loss on the last-place Knicks (9-25) on Friday night when the Atlantic Division clubs meet for the first time this season.
Toronto has struggled since winning a season-high four straight last month, losing seven of its last 10 games. Despite their mediocre record, the Raptors are three games ahead of their pace of last season, when they tied a franchise record with 47 wins and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02.
After blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Cleveland on Sunday, the Raptors took advantage of struggling Philadelphia for a 109-96 victory Wednesday.
Anthony Parker matched his season high with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and Chris Bosh added 21 points for Toronto, which shot a season-best 55.1 percent (43-for-78) from the field.
"It's important that we start doing that on a regular basis,'' said Parker, who shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range. "Against Cleveland, we had a couple of points where we had an opportunity to put the game out of reach and we didn't do it. We wanted to try and correct that tonight.''
Although they came away with a victory, the Raptors can't be pleased that they were outrebounded 41-34 and outscored in the paint 50-32. Bosh and starting center Andrea Bargnani combined for only three rebounds.
Point guard Jose Calderon had another strong performance, collecting 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a bid for his fourth double-double in five games. Calderon played more than 40 minutes for the fourth consecutive game as he continues to start in place of T.J. Ford, who has not played since Dec. 11 due to a neck injury.
The Knicks' disappointing season got a little worse Wednesday with a 101-92 loss to Houston in the opener of a four-game homestand.
Coach Isiah Thomas was ejected in the first minute of the fourth quarter and the Rockets took control immediately after, scoring 11 of the next 13 points for an 87-76 lead with 6:43 to play.
Thomas was tossed by referee Eric Lewis for arguing that Yao Ming should have been called for a 3-second violation.
"I was close enough in his ear that he could hear me, but I didn't bump him or anything like that,'' said Thomas, who avoided a suspension Thursday when the NBA, despite ruling that there was contact between the two men, said it wasn't initiated by the Knicks coach. "The reaction that I gave, you can look at it two ways and say you could just give him a tech or he can be thrown out of the game. But I'm not a guy and I haven't shown in this league that I complain a lot."
Jamal Crawford scored 21 points, Nate Robinson had 16 and Stephon Marbury 15 for the Knicks, losers of eight of nine.
New York has lost four straight at home, matching a season high. The Knicks haven't dropped five in a row at Madison Square Garden since March 19-31, 2006.
Toronto took three of four in last season's series, winning both games in New York. The Raptors have won four of five and eight of the last 10 meetings.
Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited