Final - OT
  for this game

Marbury, Francis take over as Knicks hold off Hawks

Mar 4, 2007 - 4:53 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury may be able to play together after all.

The backcourt duo combined to score all 17 of their team's points in overtime as the New York Knicks posted an exciting 104-100 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Marbury collected 38 points, nine assists and five steals and Francis added a season-high 26 points for the Knicks, who had alternated wins and losses in their last 11 games before securing their second straight victory on Saturday.

"It was a gutsy win, and I'm very pleased with the mental toughness we were able to show tonight," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "We talked about this in terms of being able to gut out a win on the road. We were able to do that tonight."

New York also snapped a four-game road losing streak and is just one game behind New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"(We're) trying to make it to the playoffs," Marbury said. "There's no time for sitting down and complaining about what's hurting. Everyone is banged up. I have an unfortunate injury with my toe. For me, it's doing whatever we have to do to be able to be competitive."

Ravaged by injuries, New York played without forward David Lee (ankle), guard Nate Robinson (stomach virus), forward Quentin Richardson (back spasms) and guard Jamal Crawford, who is out for the season with a stress fracture in his right ankle.

But their backcourt overcame all obstacles. A pair of shoot-first point guards, Marbury and Francis have been labeled as a mismatched duo who detract from each other's games. For parts of two seasons, that has been the case with injuries and ineffectiveness keeping them off the floor at the same time.

"I think it was always written about both of us playing together," Marbury said. "(Francis) fell into an unfortunate situation. Both of us played on the court together. It's a double threat when you have two guys who can penetrate and two guys who can shoot the ball."

On Saturday, they carried the Knicks, combining to shoot 19-of-42 from the field, including 8-of-19 from the arc. After Marbury missed a tough layup as time expired in regulation, New York's backcourt came out on fire in the extra session.

"Francis is a great player," Thomas said. "He can score, and when he's healthy he's really good. What he gave us tonight was a huge lift, especially when Richardson went out of the game. We needed some scoring at that time and he really helped us out."

Off the opening tap in the extra session, Francis raced to the hoop and converted a three-point play. Marbury then managed one of his own - hanging in the air and banking in a shot over 6-8 Josh Smith - and drained a shot from the arc to make it 96-90 with 3:06 left. The Knicks never were threatened thereafter.

"There's nothing I'm cutting corners on," Francis said. "I'm injured, I'm not 100 percent, but I'm going to give it what I got. I'm not trying to sound like superman. I was fortunate to be able to help the team. It was a good feeling.

"It was something I used to do every night. Coach gave me the opportunity to start the second half, and I was able to take advantage of it."

Rookie reserve Renaldo Balkman had 12 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for New York, which shot just 42 percent (35-of-84) from the field but nailed 10-of-24 3-pointers.

Trailing, 67-52, with 3:08 left in the third quarter, the Knicks went on a 25-8 run, capped by Francis's fadeaway jumper to make it 77-75 with 6:33 left in the final period.

All-Star Joe Johnson had 32 points and eight rebounds and Smith added 20 and 11 for the Hawks, who shot 44 percent (32-of-73).

"We couldn't come up with the big plays down the stretch to win the game," Johnson said. "Big rebounds, key defensive stops and then offensively, sometimes we just get out of whack. We get a lead, then we go and do stuff that's out of character, and then we couldn't get back up. Now, we're trying to get back focused. That's part of tying to be a good team, and right now we're not doing it."

Smith became the youngest player to record 500 career blocks.

"It feels good. It's another stepping stone," Smith said. "It was one of my goals. It's a really big accomplishment. It's bittersweet because we lost. It would have been great to get the record and a win."

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