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Crawford leads Knicks to third straight win

Jan 17, 2008 - 4:41 AM By Joe Rizzo PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Jamal Crawford and the New York Knicks gave Jason Kidd a migraine and, in the process, earned a third straight win for the first time in a year.

Sidelined with a migraine in their last meeting, Kidd and the Nets on Wednesday blew a 16-point first-half lead as the Knicks rallied behind Crawford's season-high 35 points for a thrilling 111-105 victory.

New York's three-game winning streak is its longest of the season and first since capping a three-game streak on January 10, 2007.

"They're putting in the work and trying to get out of this hole we're in," said Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who was lustily booed in pre-game introductions. "We're playing a lot like we did last year."

After the Knicks erased the 16-point second-quarter deficit, they blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.

"Two weeks ago, we probably would have lost that game," Crawford said.

With the game tied 102-102, Crawford nailed a 3-pointer to give the Knicks the lead for good with a minute left. On the ensuing possession, Kidd missed a wide-open 3-pointer, and Zach Randolph and Fred Jones each made a pair of free throws to put it out of reach.

"He's playing lights-out ball right now," Thomas said of Crawford, who added eight assists. "He is becoming a big-time player in this league. You have to give him a lot of rope because he's a shot-maker."

Down by 16 points with 7:45 left in the second quarter, Crawford had eight points to key a 25-10 run and get the Knicks back into the game.

Eddy Curry's three-point play with 10:39 remaining in the third quarter gave the Knicks their first lead, 57-55. They then pushed the lead as high as nine on a 3-pointer by Crawford and a free throw by Curry midway through the quarter.

Randolph registered 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Curry scored 17 for New York, which was 30-of-35 from the foul line and 9-of-20 from the arc.

"If we do convert from the foul line at that rate, we'll be a really good team," Thomas said.

Thanks to Crawford's long ball late in the third, the Knicks held an 86-78 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

The Nets got a free throw from Josh Boone before New York exploded on an 8-0 run as David Lee dunked and completed a three-point play, and Crawford made two free throws and assisted on Nate Robinson's 3-pointer from the right wing that made it 94-79 with 9:04 left.

"That's what we need - we need everybody to step up," Randolph said. "Guys are starting to lead. It's fun. Guys are sharing the ball and just playing the game. You have to have some fun in this league. You can't be so serious all the time."

The Nets immediately fought back with an 18-3 burst to tie it, 97-97, with 4:02 left behind a pair of three-point plays by Boone, four points from Carter, a putback by Sean Williams and a 3-pointer, layup and free throw from Jefferson.

Lee and Curry both were whistled for offensive interference during the run.

Quentin Richardson finally slowed the momentum with a free throw at 3:19, but Jefferson countered with a putback as the Nets regained the edge.

Randolph made a pair from the line, and Jefferson countered with a free throw before Crawford buried a long jumper with one second left on the shot clock to give New York a 102-100 lead with a minute left.

Kidd finished with 10 points and 17 assists - picking up his 10th just 8:40 into the game - but could not keep the Nets from falling for the third straight game and dropping them two games under .500 for the season.

They fell to 9-14 this season at the Izod Center but will play just one of their next nine games here, as they embark on a six-game Western road trip.

"We could look at it two ways," Kidd said. "Either we gave it away or they took it. We had a big lead and an opportunity to build on that in the first half, but unfortunately, we didn't. They came out with the energy and made shots."

"I think we did some good things tonight, but maybe it's a good time for us to get on the road and get ourselves back together," Carter said.

Carter paced the Nets with 26 points and added eight rebounds and seven assists. Jefferson scored 22, Boone had 18 to go with 12 rebounds, and the other starter, Sean Williams, had 16 points.

"Nobody has ever said that the Knicks just don't have enough talent," Jefferson said. "People have questioned their teamwork. The last few games, they have played together."

Crawford scored 61 points in the first two games between the cross-river rivals for the Knicks, who beat the Nets for the third time in as many games this season. Crawford had 29 here on December 5 in a 100-93 triumph.

"It was like playing your high-school rivals," Crawford said. "It hasn't always been like that (in the series). They used to have our number, except maybe the first year I was here."

Amid a heavy dose of trade rumors centered around him at the time, Kidd sat out that contest with what officially was termed a migraine, although there was rampant speculation the Nets star point guard did it as a protest directed at management due to his unhappiness with the team's direction.

While trade rumors have cooled, but still swirl around Kidd - with destinations like Dallas being mentioned - they might again become more pronounced. New Jersey had recovered from a bad start with an 8-2 run to get to 18-17 before losing three straight - all at home.

The Nets led 33-18 by the end of the first quarter but allowed the Knicks within 55-52 by the half.

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