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Raptors' playoff hopes continue to grow after win over Knicks

New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony (L) loses control of the ball against Toronto Raptors Rudy Gay during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, February 22, 2013.

AARON HARRIS/REUTERS

The Raptors (23-33) must have been listening as they dug in for an exciting 100-98 victory over the Knicks (32-20), the second time they've defeated a tough New York outfit in the last 10 days.

Kyle Lowry floated in a right-handed hook shot with 28 seconds left that provided the Raptors with a 97-95 lead with 28 seconds to go in what was an old-fashioned, game-long dog-fight between two Eastern Conference foes.

"It was a big game play," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry's shot that somehow eluded the outstretched arm of 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler, who enjoys 13-inch height advantage over the Raptor point guard.

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Rudy Gay, who led Toronto with 32 points, then hit one two free throws with 21 seconds left that made the score 99-96.

New York's night ended when Carmelo Anthony's last-ditch three-point effort for the tie was well short and the Air Canada Centre erupted in wild cheering. Anthony also finished with 32 points.

Earlier, Colangelo met with members of the media at the ACC to discuss the state of the franchise now that the trade deadline has come and gone without any more significant alterations.

Many felt that Bargnani was a prime trade target.

Colangelo admitted he fielded some calls about the power forward's availability in the past but that all dried up back in December after the former No. 1 pick injured himself and was lost for the next 26 games.

There's always the summer to revisit that possibility, Colangelo said, adding that he is counting on the 7-footer to be an important factor for the team going forward.

Bargnani has looked rather lost at times since his return from the injury, and even Colangelo categorized his play as "50 per cent good and 50 per cent not so good" though his first six games back.

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Some fans in Toronto have taken to venting their frustrations with Bargnani, jeering when he gets on the court, which Colangelo said has obviously unsettled the power forward.

He said it is a concern as long as the news media keep focusing on it.

"Well, if you keep writing bad things about him probably, but that's a reality of our business," Colangelo said. "People criticize me, people criticize the coach, people criticize the players all the time.

"Andrea has shown he is somewhat ... he's effected by it obviously. I think we all are. But he's a man and he has to strap on his shoes and play basketball."

Unless he was wearing earplugs Friday night Bargnani could not have helped but hear the discontent rise once again after he air-balled a shot in the second quarter and soon after headed to the bench in favor of Jonas Valanciunas.

Bargnani's line on the night: 13 minutes, 0-for-2 two from the floor and all zeros after that apart from a personal foul.

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