<
>

Rapid Reaction: Raptors 96, Knicks 79

WHAT IT MEANS: There was no game-winning 3-pointer from Jeremy Lin tonight, like there was last time in Toronto on Feb. 14, which sparked Linsanity around the world.

That's because the game wasn't even close. The Knicks' suffocating defense, which led to their five-game winning streak, let up in the first quarter, as they went down 25-16. While they had a brief 8-0 run in the second period, things got progressively worse as the night went on, offensively and defensively.

The Knicks lost their first game under Mike Woodson, 96-79 to the Raptors, dropping them to 23-25 on the season, but at least not out of the eighth seed in the East playoff hunt.

TURNING POINT: The second half. After being down only three points at halftime, 39-36, the Knicks completely collapsed in the second half. Sloppy passing, especially, led to their demise. They had 22 turnovers in the game.

THE GOOD: 1. Standing tall and talented. Amare Stoudemire lived up to his nickname, once again, for the third straight game. He scored with explosiveness on the block and finished on the break, finishing with 17 points. And he did it on defense with his two blocks. He's bringing that emotional energy consistently like he had last season when he was an MVP candidate.

2. Carmelo Anthony's strong inside game. After struggling from the outside in the first quarter, he took his frustration out around the basket. He made up for his first-quarter bricks with paint points in the second period, especially when the Knicks pushed the ball in transition. Melo finished the half with a team-high 10 points.

3. Steve Novak's second-half threes. The Knicks had too many droughts in the second half, but Novak filled a few wells with his five long balls.

THE BAD: 1. The third-quarter collapse returns. During the Knicks' final stretch under Mike D'Antoni, in which they went 2-8, one of the biggest issues that plagued them was their poor play in the third quarter. During the Knicks' five-game winning streak, they didn't have any disappearing acts in the period, displaying more consistent offense and defense throughout the game. But tonight, the plague returned, as the Knicks got outscored, 31-17. Jared Jeffries' absence (sore right knee) was felt for sure.

2. Shooting 5-for-28 from 3-point territory. It's been an area of concern for the Knicks all season. Entering Friday, they were shooting 32 percent from downtown -- fourth-worst in the NBA. Tonight, Lin's lack of penetration (only six points and four assists) and too much early passing to the wing players didn't allow them to create enough spacing to heat up Novak and J.R. Smith. It also didn't allow Tyson Chandler to get going. He only finished with two points.

3. Melo's misses from outside. Entering Friday, Anthony was coming off back-to-back 5-for-15 performances, and in the first quarter he shot 2-for-7 from the field, mostly on jumpers. What hurt Melo is that he played too rushed and his footwork was off. That caused him to commit two turnovers in the first quarter and not get into a fluid shooting motion, which was the case for most of the game.

BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: With 6:35 remaining in the second quarter, Stoudemire stepped out on Calderon and blocked his 18-foot jump shot. At least STAT came to play tonight. The pep in his step is definitely returning.

WHAT'S NEXT: The lowly Pistons (16-30) who have lost three in a row. But the Knicks have to watch out for New York product Ben Gordon, who's from Mount Vernon. He's coming off a season-high 45 points (9-for-9 from 3) in a 116-115 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night. It will be a sentimental game for Mike Woodson, who was an assistant coach for the Pistons during the 2003-04 season, when they went on to upset the Lakers in the Finals. Perhaps Woody will use that experience as motivation for the Knicks during his pregame speech Saturday night at the Garden.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.