for this game

Hornets' rally overtakes Knicks

Mar 17, 2007 - 4:59 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- If the New York Knicks miss the playoffs by one game, this will be one they remember.

The Knicks squandered an 18-point lead and missed three shots on their final possession in a 92-90 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, who ended a six-game losing streak.

David West had 18 points, 12 rebounds and the go-ahead jumper with 55 seconds to go for the Hornets, who battled their way to a 43-32 advantage on the backboards and beat the Knicks for the fourth straight time.

"It's just a big-time win for us," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We were down 18 points and we were able to come back. I think our guys showed a lot of heart, didn't give up. We just kept playing. This is a big one."

Wearing green in advance of St. Patrick's Day, the Knicks began red-hot but sent their fans home feeling blue. New York had been 12-0 at home when leading after three periods.

"This is going to hurt," said Knicks guard Steve Francis, who missed a shot at the buzzer. "We were up big early, but of course in the NBA there's a time when every team makes a run. We couldn't sustain it."

Had the Knicks (29-36) won, they would have held sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they tumbled behind New Jersey (30-36), Orlando (30-36) and Indiana (29-35) into 10th place. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

"We hate to lose any game, but this is extremely important," said Knicks forward Channing Frye, who also missed a shot in the frantic final sequence. "I don't think it's a killer, but it doesn't help our cause."

There were five lead changes and two ties in the final five-plus minutes. The Hornets took their first lead since the early moments at 83-82 on a 3-pointer by Rasual Butler, who was 5-of-5 from the arc and scored 17 points.

Butler drained another 3-pointer for an 88-86 lead with 2:03 to go. Frye tied it with a jumper, but Chris Paul drove for a layup with 1:26 left.

Two free throws by Stephon Marbury tied it for the last time at 90-90 with 1:14 remaining. West responded with his 20-footer.

"We wanted to keep floor spaced, put Tyson (Chandler) and CP (Paul) in a pick-and-roll," West said. "(Paul) just drove in and was looking. I just had to step up and make it, especially at that juncture of the game."

The teams traded empty possessions, giving the Knicks a chance to tie or win. Marbury came up short on a drive but wrestled the rebound away from West and passed to Frye, who missed an open 18-footer.

"After the first shot, I looked at the clock," Scott said. "I thought David had the ball and all of a sudden they came up with it again. I was a little surprised because I looked and there was four seconds left."

Francis tracked down the rebound but dribbled above the arc. He moved inside the circle but missed a contested 18-footer as the horn sounded.

"I was open," Francis said. "I got the ball and got a pretty decent look. I thought I'd be able to make it."

Paul had 20 points and eight assists and Tyson Chandler swept 11 boards for the Hornets (30-36), who also are in a playoff race in the Western Conference. They moved within one-half game of the final spot, battling three other teams.

"Both teams really needed it," Scott said. "I think we needed it more than they did after losing six straight. We will take it."

Francis had 21 points and 10 assists, Frye scored 20 points and Eddy Curry added 18 for the Knicks, who had won seven of their last eight home games.

"It's frustrating," Curry said. "We're not giving up, though. I think we're playing good basketball. We just have to put teams away."

Curry had the slightly upper hand in his duel with Chandler, his 2001 draft classmate and former teammate with the Chicago Bulls. Curry grabbed six rebounds while Chandler scored six points.

"I thought (Curry) played extremely well," said Chandler, who is second in the NBA in rebounding. "I'm really proud of the way he's playing. He's having fun. It's really a joy for me to see this."

Down the stretch, the Knicks settled for jumpers while the Hornets attacked the basket. The Hornets made 21-of-27 free throws while the Knicks were 15-of-15.

"We are known for taking the ball to the basket," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "We have guys who take it to the basket. We are known for putting the ball inside. Tonight we didn't do as good of a job getting to the foul line. The other team did a better job and that was the difference in the ballgame."

Frye scored 10 points in the first quarter, when the Knicks forced the Hornets into 10 straight misses during one stretch and opened a 31-15 lead.

A follow shot by Curry gave New York its largest lead at 43-25 with 6:34 left in the second quarter. But as they have many times this season, the Knicks got lazy on defense and allowed the Hornets to close to 54-48 at halftime.

"We needed to be able to close that game out early in the first or second quarter, but they played hard on the road and fought back," Frye said.

"I think we took a stance," Chandler said. "We were down. We weren't playing well. We weren't playing hard, either. I think we fell into the stance and stopped the bleeding."

A jumper and two free throws by Nate Robinson rebuilt New York's lead to 77-68 with 9:58 to play before Butler sank a 3-pointer in an 8-0 spurt to make it a one-point game.

"Rasual was unbelievable," Paul said. "The shots he hit down the stretch are the reason why we won the game."

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