for this game

Clippers hold off Knicks in Marbury's return

Nov 15, 2007 - 8:14 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The New York Knicks hope there is time to repair the relationship between Stephon Marbury and coach Isiah Thomas. But on Wednesday, it was too late to salvage the game.

Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley hit a pair of clutch jumpers to thwart a frantic run by the Knicks as the Los Angeles Clippers held on for an 84-81 victory at Staples Center.

Chris Kaman had 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers, who used a decisive 23-3 run in the third quarter to take control of the game - allowing them to withstand New York's spurt in the final 12 minutes.

"We had a big third quarter and, in the fourth quarter, we let them get back in the game," Kaman said. "You know basketball, it's up and down the court. We just had a little more up than they did."

The Knicks had one final chance, but after Mobley's free throw made it 84-81 with six seconds left, Jamal Crawford's desperation 3-pointer hit the back iron as time expired.

Thomas was not concerned about Crawford's miss on the final possession.

"We have four or five guys out on the floor that, at the end of a game, that can make a play," the coach said. "I'm not uncomfortable with him (Crawford) taking that shot. We have guys that can make plays and still handle the situation out there."

But most of the story revolved around the Knicks' enigmatic point guard.

Marbury skipped New York's morning practice on Monday after reportedly being informed that he would not start in the team's eventual 113-102 loss against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

He flew home to New York in a huff prior to that contest but was not suspended - claiming that he had permission to leave the team. Thomas would not comment, opting to keep the issue "in-house."

The coach did comment that he thinks that Marbury can still help the team.

"My goal is trying to win a basketball game," Thomas said. "I've played with people I don't like, and I've won with people I don't like. We're a professional basketball team and my job is trying to win a basketball game.

"However, I feel we are trying to win a basketball game. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. We move forward."

What was made public was a fine of nearly $200,000 levied on Marbury, who rejoined the team in Los Angeles and was seen shaking hands with Thomas prior to the game as they sat next to each other on the bench.

That was where the 30-year-old guard remained at the start of the contest. Marbury was not even the first guard off the bench for Thomas, who sent in Nate Robinson as the initial reserve.

Marbury eventually threw off his warm-ups with 2:54 left in the opening period and scored his first basket with 11:39 left in the second. He scored 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 33 minutes.

"I knew I wasn't going to start," Marbury said. "It was strange, a different type of rhythm. But you get to see what's going on on the court, so I took the positive out of it."

It was Marbury's seventh career appearance as a reserve in 805 games. His last time off the bench came on April 6, 2002, as a member of the Suns.

The Knicks also got starters Zach Randolph and Quentin Richardson back but still looked sluggish, especially in the third.

Despite gaining firepower, New York put forth an anemic effort offensively, getting outscored by 20 points over the final nine minutes of the third as the Clippers took a 63-53 lead into the final period.

"We had point-blank layups (in the third quarter) right around the basket and that's what we're like," Thomas said. "And our ball movement got kind of stale in that third quarter. We weren't as crisp as we had been."

The Knicks, who scored just nine points in the third, missed 17 straight field-goal attempts during that span - finally breaking that drought on Crawford's jumper to cut their deficit to 63-55 just 58 seconds into the fourth.

In the final 12 minutes, the Clippers held off the Knicks, who tied the game at 77-77 on two free throws by center Eddy Curry with 1:41 left, capping a 20-4 run. Thomas and Mobley then added back-to-back jumpers to end the burst.

"This was one of those games we just had to grind out," Thomas said. "It was an ugly win but we'll take it."

Curry and Randolph scored 16 points apiece for the Knicks, who have lost four in a row since starting the campaign 2-1.

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