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Curry, Crawford lead Knicks past Cavaliers

Nov 30, 2006 - 3:07 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford showed that basketball can be a two-man game.

Curry scored 12 of his season-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and Crawford had all 11 of his in the final period as the New York Knicks showed poise down the stretch in a 101-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Quentin Richardson had 27 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 53 percent (37-of-70) from the field and improved to a surprising 5-5 on the road. Last season, New York did not win its fifth road game until March 4.

"This was a tough one for us but it was a good one for us because we've been challenged every way possible I think you can get challenged and we're still together," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.

There were three lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter, the last at 98-98 with 1:05 remaining on a driving layup by LeBron James, who scored 27 points but was tentative at times.

On the next possession, Crawford beat his man off the dribble and flipped a pass to Curry, who dunked as he was fouled. His free throw made it 101-98 with 46 seconds to go.

"You have to pick your poison," Curry said. "You have me rolling to the basket, and if they try to pick me up, then Jamal is going to take the jump shot. He's tall enough to look over the top and make a great play.

"We knew we wanted to exploit the high pick-and-roll, myself and Eddy, and just keep attacking until they stopped it, and they really never figured it out," Crawford said. After James missed, New York's Steve Francis - who was second in the NBA in free-throw percentage - missed a pair from the line. Cleveland committed a turnover but Francis fired an airball, giving the Cavaliers one more chance.

However, Donyell Marshall's 3-pointer was an airball, ending Cleveland's six-game home winning streak.

Curry, Crawford and Richardson accounted for all 28 of New York's points in the final period.

"We're going to (Curry) and he's coming through," Crawford said. "He's led the league in field-goal percentage before and he's going to make a high percentage of shots. Guys have a lot of trust in him down the stretch."

"The bottom line is we did a poor job defensively," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "We did a poor job of keeping our man in front of us. We did a poor job defending the pick-and-roll, especially late in the ballgame in the fourth quarter when that's all they did."

Stephon Marbury scored 13 points for the Knicks, who avenged a 102-96 home loss to Cleveland on November 13.

Drew Gooden scored 16 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 12 and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who have six losses - five to teams below .500.

Richardson missed Tuesday's loss at Chicago with a strained hamstring but held his own against James, controlling his explosiveness and forcing him to take some tough shots while providing plenty of offense.

"He's a great player. LeBron's tough to guard," Richardson said. "I just tried to make it tough for him so he wouldn't go crazy and get 30 or 40 points."

"(Richardson) gives you another weapon on floor," Thomas said. "When are sagging in on Eddy, now you can kick it out and he can knock down the three-ball. He was great tonight, with the hamstring and everything."

Richardson actually outscored James, 17-14, in the first half, when the Knicks shot 59 percent (23-of-39) and opened a 56-51 lead. But they stopped moving the ball in the third quarter, and the Cavaliers got back in the game.

A follow shot by David Lee gave New York its largest lead at 71-60 with 7:13 to go before a three-point play by James triggered a 17-2 run that closed the quarter.

"We lost the game earlier by allowing them to shoot (59) percent in the first half," James said. "We burned a lot of energy coming back in the third."

"We took their punch and we punched back, and we kept fighting and we got the win," Curry said.

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