The second game of a home-and-home, back-to-back series between the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors almost brought with it a fitting symmetry. Unlike the first game in which the Knicks allowed a fourth-quarter lead to slip through their grasp, in Saturday's contest, it looked for a while as if the Raptors would return the favor to the Knicks as a way of saying they, too, can embrace the giving spirit of the holiday season by gifting their opponent with a victory. However, as the final score of the game attests, with the Raptors winning 115-100, eventually the Raptors decided to adopt a Scrooge act and be so incredibly selfish with their lead as to keep it all to themselves.
When the fourth quarter commenced, the Raptors were in ownership of a very comfortable and seemingly stable 14-point lead, having outscored the Knicks in each of the three previous periods. What seemed stable at the beginning of the fourth quarter, though, became increasingly more precarious as the Knicks chipped and whittled away at the Raptors' advantage until a Tyson Chandler made shot brought the Knicks to within six points of the Raptors with 3:34 remaining in the contest.
Aiding the Knicks in taking eight points off the Raptors' lead was some noteworthy shot-making that took the form of the Knicks going 10 for 16 from the field, including two three-pointers; Amar'e Stoudemire, especially, was on fire during the torrid shooting spree of the Knicks, connecting on five of his six field goal attempts during the Knicks' semi-comeback.
Despite clawing their way back to within a respectable distance, the Knicks were almost doomed to fail in their mission to completely overtake the Raptors since it was incredibly unlikely they would have been able to maintain such uncharacteristically proficient shooting for the duration of the quarter; the Knicks ended up making just two of their next six field goal attempts and one of their two free throw attempts over the final 3:34 of the game.
Putting the Knicks' comeback hopes in even more peril than just having to deal with regression to the mean was the fact that the Raptors were not going to sit idly by while the Knicks snatched victory away. As much as the Knicks might want to end the season atop the NBA heights of mediocrity, the Raptors surely have the same ambition and so far this season, they are closer to the summit.
Therefore, it was no great shock when the Raptors quickly dashed the Knicks' hopes of victory by providing an answer just when their lead was being most severely questioned. In the 20 seconds immediately following the Knicks coming within six points of the Raptors' lead, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry scored five straight points to put the kibosh on the Knicks' comeback efforts; the Knicks did not come within ten points of the Raptors for the rest of the contest.
On the bright side, even though the loss to the Raptors represented the Knicks' third straight defeat, the team can at least take solace in knowing they were able to score at just above a league-average rate on Saturday. Considering the way in which the season has played out so far for the Knicks, and likely will continue to play out, doing anything at even an average rate should be reason enough for the organization to launch a celebration parade.