Toronto Raptors edge New York Knicks behind DeRozan’s clutch shooting | Toronto Star

NEW YORK — The recuperative powers of a resort, a beach and warm weather are substantial Cory Joseph has found out first-hand.The Toronto Raptors guard was worn down a week or so ago, tired and beaten up a little bit and struggling through a so-so...

Toronto Raptors edge New York Knicks behind DeRozan’s clutch shooting | Toronto Star

NEW YORK — The recuperative powers of a resort, a beach and warm weather are substantial Cory Joseph has found out first-hand.

The Toronto Raptors guard was worn down a week or so ago, tired and beaten up a little bit and struggling through a so-so stretch of a long regular season.

Then came a few days away with no practices, no games, no pounding on his body and a nice mental break as well, precisely what he needed as it turns out.

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“I just, obviously, (have) more energy, more legs,” Joseph said this week. “My legs were shot before that break, I’m not going to lie to you.

“That break was very much needed and now I’m back and I have some more energy and I’m going to keep it going for the rest of this year.”

That has become more important than ever now that Joseph is installed as Toronto’s starting point guard for the foreseeable future with Kyle Lowry having surgery Tuesday morning.

With no helped coming — “we’re happy with our point guards so, no, we haven’t even talked about that,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday night — it will be up to Joseph, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet to carry the load while Lowry is out.

They all played here in Monday’s dramatic 92-91 win over the Knicks as Raptors team that looked understandably disoriented at times but still managed to pull out a win.

DeMar DeRozan’s driving layup off a perfectly executed out-of-bounds play with 33 seconds to play gave the Raptors a two-point lead. Toronto perfectly defended the ensuing possession with P.J. Tucker harassing Carmelo Anthony but they couldn’t corral a missed shot and Courtney Lee’s three-pointer put the Knicks up 91-90 with 10.6 seconds to go.

DeRozan answered that with an equally huge shot, backing down Lee and nailing a 17-footer with 1.9 seconds left.

Anthony missed an open three at the buzzer as Toronto secured its fourth consecutive win.

It was the last bucket on a 35-point night for DeRozan while Serge Ibaka had 15 for the Raptors; Carmelo Anthony 24 and Derrick Rose 16 for the Knicks, who were without Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) and Joakim Noah (knee).

While the break obviously came at a good time, instead of returning to his regular role and anywhere between 20 and 25 minutes night, Joseph moved into the starting lineup in Lowry’s absence with Wright as his primary backup.

“We love those guys and what they’re doing. Of course, it’s big shoes to fill from Kyle … but Cory’s done an excellent job, an excellent job, of running the show, defending, distributing the basketball,” Casey said.

Joseph and Wright did provide the Raptors with all they needed in the weekend wins. They may not have the same force or style as Lowry and no one connected with the team thinks they can thrive long-term without the starter but in the short term, Joseph and Wright have been more than sufficient.

Wright overcame some first-half jitters on Sunday to provide solid support in the second half, Joseph blended well both Friday and Sunday with a hard-nosed finishing group that included newcomers Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

“Not that you want (any) guy out, but every basketball player wants to play minutes, you know what I mean?” Joseph said. “It feels great to be able to play extended minutes, more than I usually play. I’m ready to take on that role and when Kyle gets back, I’ll just adjust.”

Joseph has had an up-and-down season so far. He battled allergies for a spell that sapped some of his endurance, he found it hard some games to keep opposing guards in front of him and he’s still shooting a career-worst 45.3 per cent. But he sees the weekend signs to mean a corner may have been turned.

“Everyone wants good games,” he said. “I don’t want to say needs, but everyone wants good games. You have good games you can kind of draw up your shoulders a little bit and keep it going.

“But when you’re going through tough stretches, obviously you get frustrated. Having a couple of good games definitely helps.”

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