Time and again, the sharpshooter clad in Toronto Raptors purple and black rose above the flailing defenders, a propellant of power from the perimeter. His shots rained down on the Knicks with such regularity, the New York defenders would have been better off had they taken the Madison Square Garden floor armed with umbrellas.
Williams highlights from Games 1 and 2:
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Oh, and then there was Vince Carter
, who scored 22 points.
Toronto guard Alvin Williams
was the biggest reason the Raptors clawed their way to a split of the first two games in their opening round playoff series against the Knicks. While New York's defensive strategy was "Get Carter," Williams piled up a career-high-tying 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting to rally the Raptors to a 94-74 triumph over the Knicks on Thursday. The series shifts to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Wednesday, with the Raptors relishing their first postseason victory in franchise history.
"I feel like I'm Alvin's publicist," Carter said. "A lot of you guys are starting to see what I've been talking about for a while. He's just stepping up big."
Williams built upon his 19-point performance in Game 1, and has totaled 42 in the two games of this series. That, after averaging only 9.8 points during the regular season. In the Raptors' three-game loss to the Knicks in the opening round last year, Williams played a grand total of 4.5 seconds. On Thursday, he played 44 minutes, more than anyone else did on either team.
"It's a different year," the soft-spoken Williams said. "I always knew I could play if I had a chance. Right now, Coach [Lenny] Wilkens is giving me a chance and that's all I can ask for."
Williams, 26 and in his fourth NBA season, benefited from a surprise lineup change engineered by Wilkens for Game 2, as veteran Chris Childs
started at the point, with Williams moving from point guard to shooting guard and rookie Morris Peterson
going to the bench. The switch not only shored up the Raptors defensively, but also gave Williams better opportunities to shoot. With the Knicks doubling Carter nearly every chance they got, Williams was often left open and made the Knicks pay.
"He's not scared of anybody," Wilkens said. "He has courage. That's the only way you have to play. You have to go out and let it be known that you're out there. 'No matter what you do, I'm going to do something.' Give him credit. He has done it all himself."
Williams scored nine of his points in the second quarter to help stake Toronto to a 39-35 halftime lead, and added seven more in the third quarter as the Raptors outscored the Knicks 27-17 in the period to take control of the game as the Garden fans headed to the exits. He finished the game with three three-pointers, one more than the entire Knicks team.
The longest-serving Raptor in terms of service, Williams remembers what it was like during his first season in Toronto in 1997-98, when the Raptors won 16 games. Indeed, after basking in victory inside a hostile building with so much on the line, such travails seem like light-years ago.
"That's history now," Williams said. "It's the present that concerns us. We're 1-1 and going home.
"This is big, but we want to win the series, not just one game. We go home now with confidence."
Barry Rubinstein is a member of the NBA Editorial Staff.