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As if the Knicks didn't know already, they learned something Wednesday night about Vince Carter.

The guy can play. Big-time.

But on a night when they started their big lineup again, they also learned something about Patrick Ewing, something that ultimately produced a 91-90 victory over Carter, Charles Oakley, and the Toronto Raptors, their ninth victory in the last 11 games.

Patrick can make a big shot.

On his first shot of the final quarter and only his fifth of the game, Ewing buried a 14-footer from the right side of the key with 21.3 seconds left to break an 86-all tie after the Knicks blew a 15-point lead with 8:34 to play.

"The old man . . . " Toronto coach Butch Carter said, pausing and then stopping without finishing the thought. "He'll be heading for me if I call him an old man."

Whatever people want to call Ewing, even his greatest detractors have to admit that the shot he hit was as vintage as it was clutch.

"I can't remember," Ewing responded when asked when was the last time he had made such a clutch shot. "Last year because of the (injured) wrist I missed some, so it's good to hit one. My shot is back.".

A parade to the free throw line followed, but Ewing's shot was ultimately the game-winner.

Carter lit up the Garden with 36 points, soaring for one spectacular first-quarter alley-oop slam and anchoring the Raptors' comeback. He scored seven straight points in one three-minute stretch, punctuated by an 18-footer to tie the game at 86 with 40.7 seconds left.

But after Ewing put the Knicks ahead, Carter missed a three-pointer for the lead. The best he could do was a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left to make it a one-point game after the Knicks deliberately fouled him to prevent a three-pointer to tie.

"It was time to go to a major city, put on a big show," Oakley said of Carter.

Ewing wasn't even the first option on his show-stopper.

"The play was to go to Allan (Houston)," Ewing said. "But they denied him and Spree the ball. Larry (Johnson) was stuck with it, he gave it to me, and I made my move."

It wasn't quite as graceful as anything Carter produced, but it helped salvage a game the Knicks seemed to have in hand, up 82-67 at the 8:34 mark.

"We stopped playing," Ewing said.

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