New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - With J.R. Smith's 30 points leading the way, the New York Knicks wrapped up a disappointing 2013-14 season on a high note by rallying for a 95-92 victory over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks (37-45) overcame a 21-point first-half deficit to close out the campaign with their fourth straight win, though the Atlantic Division champion Raptors rested their regulars for most of the final two quarters after learning they clinched the Eastern Conference's third seed with Chicago's loss to Charlotte.
Toronto (48-34) will take on Brooklyn in the opening round.
"We'll go back and watch film, but they're a very experienced team," Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said of the Nets. "They have championship caliber players."
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18 points for New York and Cole Aldrich posted 13 points and 16 rebounds, with his bucket with 1:23 remaining snapping a 90-90 deadlock.
"It's terrible, it feels bad (not making the playoffs), but it's a learning experience," said Hardaway.
Kyle Lowry tallied 22 points and five assists in just 26 minutes for the Raptors, with Greivis Vasquez scoring 13 points and Nando De Colo 12 in the loss.
Down 57-36 with under 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half, the Knicks scored eight straight points to enter the break with some momentum they maintained during a strong third quarter. New York shot a sizzling 13-of-18 for the period, which it began with a 14-2 run that cut Toronto's lead to 59-58.
Hardaway backed up a jumper late in the third by making 1-of-2 free throws to give New York a 74-73 edge, but Toronto tied it entering the fourth when Tyler Hansbrough went 1-of-2 from the line.
The game remained tight the entire rest of the way. De Colo knocked down a 3- pointer to put the Raptors up 90-88 with 2:55 to play, but Smith threw down a slam shortly afterward and had a miss put back by Aldrich on the next possession to sent the Knicks back in front.
After Toronto failed to score on its next two trips down the court, Smith sealed the outcome by burying a pull-up jumper with 21.8 seconds showing.
Lowry was the game's difference-maker early on, racking up 17 first- quarter points on a 6-of-8 success rate as the driving force behind the Raptors' 28-21 advantage after one period. Twelve of those points came in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the session.
Toronto then opened the second quarter on 16-4 run to lead comfortably, with De Colo following a Patrick Patterson 3-pointer with a driving layup to extend the margin to 44-25 just over four minutes into the stanza.
The Knicks signed veteran forward Lamar Odom prior to the game but did not activate him for the finale ... Center Tyson Chandler and guard Raymond Felton (ankle) were both held out for New York ... The Raptors shot just 31 percent for the second half ... The Knicks ended the season 19-22 at MSG, with the Raptors going 22-19 on the road.