TORONTO -- Vince Carter peeled off his sneakers and flung them into the stands, then walked back to the locker room as shoeless as he was winless.
The Toronto Raptors' first playoff appearance ended on a downer Sunday as they were swept out of the first round by the New York Knicks. The deciding factors in all three games were poise and experience, especially in Sunday's 87-80 victory.
''They're an experienced team and know what it takes to win,'' Toronto's Tracy McGrady said, ''and they got it done in the crunch situations.''
Sunday's biggest shot was a lucky one by Larry Johnson -- a 3-pointer that banked in off the backboard from a nearly straight-away angle with 24.2 seconds left to put the Knicks into a second-round series against Miami.
''Definitely, the gods were with me,'' Johnson said. ''I didn't call a bank on that one.''
Carter and Dee Brown missed shots on Toronto's next possession, and Chris Childs locked up the victory by making two foul shots with 11.8 seconds left.
As the final eight seconds ticked off, the Raptors hung their heads and gave up. The crowd filed out silently, except for the stragglers who got Carter's sneakers as souvenirs.
''Reality hit real quick,'' Carter said. ''You say to yourself you're not going to come back and play basketball. Now I've got to go home and watch and deal with nephews and cousins.''
In other games Sunday, Minnesota beat Portland 94-87 and Sacramento defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 99-91. The Timberwolves and Kings staved off elimination, but still trail 2-1 in their best-of-five series.
Philadelphia and Indiana will attempt to wrap up their series tonight. The 76ers face Charlotte at home, and the Pacers are at Milwaukee.
New York moves on to face the Heat in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. This time, both teams are coming off first-round sweeps.
The Knicks had to work hard for this victory, just as they did in the first two games, and the difference came down to which team could make the right decisions and sink the key shots in the final minute.
With the Knicks leading 80-78 with one minute left, Charles Oakley picked up his dribble 30 feet from the basket and threw the ball out of bounds when none of the other Raptors came to help him.
Allan Houston, who led New York with 23 points, made a 21-foot jumper with 44 seconds left for an 82-78 lead.
After two foul shots by Antonio Davis, Johnson's 3-pointer slammed off the backboard and went right through the net.
''I said to him: Did you call glass? And he said no,'' Carter said. ''That's tough to swallow that shot. That's a shot you make in H-O-R-S-E. He makes that shot at a crucial point in the game, it's tough to come back from.''
Upon making the shot, Johnson pointed his fist at his right elbow -- his ''Big L'' gesture that has returned to fashion after a one-year hiatus.
Only this time, the ''L'' might just as well have stood for ''Lucky'' than ''Larry.''
''I thought it was good when I let it go,'' Johnson said. ''It hit the glass and went in. I'll take it. I'll take it.''
Carter had another below-par game, scoring 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting. The Knicks aggressively double-teamed him in the final minutes, even sending two men out to guard him at halfcourt when he brought the ball up.
Houston had his highest-scoring game of the series, while Johnson added 14 points, Patrick Ewing had 12 and Sprewell 11.
''I banked a shot in, and it was a big shot,'' Johnson said, ''but Allan kept us in this game, doing what he's been doing all year -- leading us in scoring.''
Davis led the Raptors with 18 points.
The biggest statistical difference was in 3-point shooting -- New York went 9-for-16 and Toronto was 3-for-21.
''I don't think we took 21 3-point shots in a single game all season,'' Raptors coach Butch Carter said.
The Raptors head into the summer facing an uncertain future. They have six free agents, including McGrady, and will have a hard time making it back to the postseason if he opts to sign elsewhere.
''We learned from our mistakes, and definitely, hopefully, we'll be back,'' McGrady said.
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