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Raptors-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors head into the final day of the regular season as Atlantic Division champions after setting a franchise record for wins.

They're aiming for more - particularly in the playoffs.

The Raptors can secure the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory Wednesday night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Toronto (48-33) is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, the season after the Raptors won their only previous division title. They added another accomplishment Monday, beating Milwaukee 110-100 to set a team record for victories.

"We can't just be happy," guard Greivis Vasquez said. "We've got to continue to get better and make a run in the playoffs."

Tied for third in the conference with Chicago but with the edge due to its division title, Toronto can clinch the spot with a win or a Bulls loss at playoff-bound Charlotte.

Despite the Raptors winning six of seven in April and averaging 108.9 points, coach Dwane Casey feels improvement is needed for the postseason.

"I know it's ringing hollow but we still have to continue to work to get better," Casey said. "We're not where we need to be defensively or offensively for the playoffs."

Casey could be alluding to Friday's 108-100 defeat to the Knicks (36-45) as the Raptors shot 39.5 percent from the floor.

DeMar DeRozan, who was rested Monday, scored a team-high 26 points in that meeting despite missing 12 of 18 from the field. The All-Star guard was much more efficient at MSG on Dec. 27, hitting 7 of 13 field goals while totaling 25 points in a 95-83 victory.

Toronto only needed 20 from DeRozan to complete a sweep of the home-and-home set with a 115-100 win a day later.

If DeRozan is given the night off again, Vasquez could be back in the lineup after scoring 25 points against the Bucks. He's averaged 7.0 points and shot 28.6 percent in three games against the Knicks this season.

Kyle Lowry is averaging 26.5 points over the past four games after missing three with a sore knee. He's totaled 57 points over the past two against the Knicks, shooting 56.7 percent and hitting 8 of 14 from beyond the arc.

While the Raptors are looking to make a deep run in the playoffs, the Knicks' run of three straight postseasons is over. However, they've won six of their last eight, including five victories against playoff teams.

New York beat Brooklyn for the second time in that stretch Tuesday, winning 109-98 despite Carmelo Anthony missing the first of two games with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

The recent success has coach Mike Woodson lamenting the Knicks' earlier struggles.

"If we had handled our business early on and didn't let some of the close games get away, we probably wouldn't be standing here. We'd probably be preparing for playoff basketball, but that's not the case," Woodson said. "We put ourselves in this hole and we're going to have to live with it this summer and then try to figure it out next season."

Tim Hardaway Jr. may play a larger role come 2014-15, and he's totaled 36 points while hitting 6 of 12 from beyond the arc over the past two games.

Amare Stoudemire has averaged 16.5 points and shot 57.9 percent since returning to the starting lineup March 3, and he's averaged 23.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in the past two meetings with Toronto.

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