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Miller, Sixers hand Knicks crippling loss in playoff hunt

Apr 5, 2007 - 6:07 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- While Steven Hunter tried to give it away, Andre Miller made sure to continue the New York Knicks' spiral out of the playoff race.

Miller nailed a huge jumper with eight seconds left to preserve a tenuous lead as the Philadelphia 76ers held on for a dramatic 92-90 victory over the sliding New York Knicks.

Andre Iguodala scored 18 points for the 76ers, who used a decisive 21-5 run to secure the victory.

"We're just trying to get wins," Philadelphia swingman Kyle Korver said. "It doesn't matter who it's against even though it's a big rivalry between two teams. We're just trying to get better, it doesn't matter who it is, whether it's New York, Dallas or Phoenix. We weren't playing the perfect game by any means."

The spurt sent the Knicks (31-43) to their ninth loss in their last 11 games - dropping them 2 1/2 behind eighth-place Orlando (34-41) in the Eastern Conference. New York could not take advantage of Orlando's loss to Toronto earlier Wednesday night.

"This is definitely a missed opportunity, and we just have to suck it up and go into practice (Thursday) and keep focus," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.

Rookie Rodney Carney's floater capped Philadelphia's decisive run, making it 90-83 with 57 seconds remaining. But Hunter's folly still nearly blew the game for Philadelphia.

Down the stretch, Hunter grabbed Knicks guard Stephon Marbury's errant 3-pointer in midair and was called for goaltending. On the ensuing possession, Hunter's bad pass was stolen by rookie Mardy Collins, setting up Nate Robinson's transition layup that sliced the deficit to 90-88 with 31 seconds left.

"I'm just fortunate we got the win," Hunter said. "I think (Marbury's) three was definitely short, but again, it was a judgement call by the referee. Maybe he didn't have a good view on it but refs are human and they make mistakes. But I thought it was short, that's why I grabbed it."

"I'm sure I've seen (goaltending on a 3-pointer)," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I don't know if I saw it that late in the game. Fortunately, we were able to survive it."

However, Miller then hit the game's biggest shot. With the shot clock running down, he ducked under the arm of rookie Renaldo Balkman and drained a leaner to make it 92-88 and put the game nearly out of reach.

"They knew (the leaner) was coming but you can't use it all the time," Miller said. "I had to use it just because I fumbled the ball a little bit. It turned out for the best, and we move on to the next game."

But after Marbury's driving layup, Kyle Korver - the NBA's top free-throw shooter - missed two from the stripe, and New York corralled the rebound with one second remaining. After a timeout, Marbury's desperation shot from the arc fell short as time expired.

Marbury scored 20 of his 30 points in the third quarter, including 18 straight for his team. He capped that burst with a 3-pointer from 30 feet out with 27 seconds left, giving New York a 67-65 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

But beyond the veteran point guard, New York's backcourt struggles to score.

"I took Steph out to give him a blow for a second. He was pretty winded," Thomas said. "When he is not in the game, sometimes we just don't have enough on the perimeter. For the most part, our guys did a pretty good job. We just have to find a way to do better."

The Knicks continue to battle injuries as guard Jamal Crawford (stress fracture ankle), forward Quentin Richardson (back) and guard Steve Francis were still out. But forward David Lee, who has battled a leg injury, dressed but did not play.

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