for this game

Crawford leads Knicks to win in home opener

Nov 5, 2007 - 3:02 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Considering all the bad publicity Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks received during the offseason, the last thing they needed was another loss in the home opener.

Jamal Crawford led six Knicks in double figures with 24 points as the Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak in home openers with a 97-93 victory over the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

Stephon Marbury added 17 and seven assists for New York, which recovered from a 110-106 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in its season opener.

"It's very important," Marbury said. "One, our fans will have something to talk about when they go home, which is a great thing. Whenever, New York is happy for us, it makes the game so much easier to come and play."

Trailing by three points, Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman inserted 3-point specialist Antoine Walker into the game with 6.9 seconds remaining but his shot from the arc was long.

"I just knew we had to get the shot off," Walker said. "That wasn't for me originally. It wasn't the best situation that we had to get a shot out to the basket."

Randolph grabbed the rebound and sealed the win with a free throw. That sequence capped Randolph's second straight double-double as he overcame a rough start and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

"He scratched out a double-double tonight," Thomas said. "He had the big rebound. It was one of those games that it wasn't his best game, but when you look at a player such as himself and he battled and didn't have a great shooting night, that's when you know you have something really special."

"I had a little bit (of jitters)," Randolph said. "I'm glad it's over."

The Knicks took a 75-73 lead into the fourth and held Minnesota without a basket until Rashad McCants' 3-pointer made it a two-point game at the 8:38 mark. They then lost the lead when Theo Ratliff converted a hook shot over Curry with just 7:30 remaining.

Marbury returned to the game and the Knicks regained the lead on Crawford's jumper, which made it 83-81 with just under seven minutes left. That triggered a 12-6 stretch that put New York in front by six points with 3:28 remaining on Curry's dunk.

Crawford, who has 49 points in two games, made 8-of-15 shots and scored 10 points in the fourth.

"That's what he does," Curry said of Crawford. "After playing with him for so long, you kind of expect that. He is a great player."

The Timberwolves came right back and were within 94-91 on consecutive baskets by Al Jefferson. Crawford made two free throws to restore the five-point edge.

But the Knicks could not get the defensive rebound on Greg Buckner's miss and Ryan Gomes made a pair at the line, which made it 96-93.

With their lead down to three, the Knicks went to Crawford, who missed a 3-pointer that went in and out. But the ball went off a Minnesota defender and New York retained possession.

Marbury then dished to Randolph, who missed an easy hoop and, after Curry missed a follow shot with 15.8 seconds left, Gomes grabbed the rebound, and Minnesota called timeout - setting up Walker's miss.

"We have to continue to play like we are," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "Right now our identity is that we are going to play hard. Both games we have fought back to at least have a shot at a tie."

New York last won a home opener in 2001 when it defeated the Washington Wizards. That was so long ago that Jeff Van Gundy was coaching New York and Michael Jordan was starting his second comeback from retirement.

Since that win, the Knicks have lost home openers under coaches Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown and Thomas.

In recent years, Wilkens was at the helm for a 34-point loss to the Boston Celtics - the worst in team history - Brown coached an 11-point defeat to Washington, and Thomas presided over a 14-point loss to the Indiana Pacers en route to a 2-10 start at home.

"It is always good to win your home opener," Thomas said. "For us, here in New York, we struggled last year at the start of the season and to come out and win the first game (was good). The fans were great tonight. They were very supportive. They wanted to see a good basketball game, and I thought they saw one."

"It feels really good," Crawford said. "I think our fans are really huge. The fans came out, and they were really warm for us."

Before all the injuries hit last March, the Knicks had begun to play better at home and had gained some of their fans back. That was before Thomas and Madison Square Garden lost a civil trial for sexual harrassment against former team employee Anucha Browne Sanders.

Perhaps fearful of some negative backlash from the sellout crowd, Thomas was introduced quickly before his team.

Once the game started, the Knicks fell behind by seven after one as they shot 35 percent (8-of-23).

They began to get back in the game in the second when Thomas used Crawford, Curry, Nate Robinson, Renaldo Balkman and David Lee in the lineup together. That unit opened the quarter with a 15-8 spurt as the Knicks took the lead with 6:44 remaining on Crawford's crossover drive to the hoop.

They went ahead by as many as nine and took a 54-50 lead into halftime.

Gomes scored 17 points, reserve Craig Smith added 14 and Al Jefferson scored 10 of his 12 in the first quarter for Minnesota.

The Timberwolves, who were playing their second game in the post-Kevin Garnett era, held a 41-34 rebounding advantage but only went to the foul line 10 times.

"I think defensively, not giving them so many free throws," Gomes said. "You can't have that. No matter how well you're shooting, the clock is stopped and (you get) two free throws, and it will give your team an opportunity to at least put some points on the board without having (the clock stop)."








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