By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
Posted Mar 23 2013 1:22AM
The New York Knicks are headed back to the playoffs, but coach Mike Woodson doesn't want them relaxing.
Carmelo Anthony looks to continue putting his recent injury behind him Saturday night and lead the Knicks to a home-and-home sweep of the visiting Toronto Raptors, who may be without forward Rudy Gay.
New York (41-26) beat Toronto 99-94 on Friday for its third straight victory and clinched a playoff berth for the third season in a row, something the team hadn't done since a 14-year streak from 1988 to 2001.
With 15 games remaining, the Knicks are atop the Atlantic Division by 1 1/2 games over Brooklyn and 5 1/2 on Boston. They're also one game back of Indiana for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
That's reason enough for Woodson to want his team to remain focused.
"We can't have any slippage, no matter who we play, because Brooklyn is not going anywhere and Boston is not going anywhere," Woodson said.
Continued production from a healthy Anthony could keep New York rolling heading into Tuesday's visit to Boston. The superstar forward has totaled 58 points in two games after missing six of the previous eight with a sore right knee.
Anthony scored 37 in 43 minutes Friday, about 10 more than Woodson was hoping he'd last.
"I'll take on that challenge, I love that challenge, I want that challenge," said Anthony, the NBA's second-leading scorer at 27.6 points per game. "I wanted to see what I could do, especially being out and not playing the way I know how to play."
Anthony, however, struggled mightily in a 92-88 loss to Toronto in the most recent meeting at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 13. He had 12 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 5 of 24 from the field - 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Kenyon Martin wasn't a member of the Knicks at that time, but they are glad he is now after he had his best performance since joining the team on his original 10-day contract Feb. 23.
The veteran had 19 points, 11 rebounds and two steals Friday as he provides an inside presence with New York dealing with a slew of injuries. Amare Stoudemire (right knee surgery), Tyson Chandler (strained neck), Rasheed Wallace (left foot) and Kurt Thomas (right foot) are out.
That's forced Martin into the starting lineup for five straight games - the last three at center - and he's averaging 11.0 points and 7.2 boards.
"He means a lot to this team right now," Anthony said of Martin, his one-time Denver teammate. "We need him coming down the stretch."
Friday's loss was the third straight and 11th in 15 games for the Raptors (26-43), who are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.
Gay's status for this game is unknown after he left early in the second quarter Friday with a sore back. He's averaged 19.9 points in 21 games since being acquired in a three-team trade from Memphis on Jan. 30.
Alan Anderson may need to pick up the scoring slack again after getting a career-high 35 points Friday, making 11 of 18 from the field and 6 of 11 from long range.
The reserve swingman certainly did that at MSG on Feb. 13, when Gay was limited to 11 points on 4-for-21 shooting. Anderson poured in 26 points and hit 6 of 8 from beyond the arc.
DeMar DeRozan had 18 points Friday, and has averaged 22.0 in six visits to MSG.
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