for this game

Knicks down Bobcats, win third straight

Apr 10, 2008 - 2:56 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Isiah Thomas believes the New York Knicks have become a team. When he meets with new team president Donnie Walsh, he might have to answer why it took 79 games.

Jamal Crawford led six players in double figures with 18 points as the Knicks held on for a 109-107 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in front Walsh on Wednesday.

Zach Randolph collected 13 points and 11 rebounds for New York, which led by as many as 19 in the first half and survived a near collapse for the second straight night.

Fred Jones added 15 points on five 3-pointers while Quentin Richardson and rookie Wilson Chandler added 12 apiece. Nate Robinson chipped in 11 points for New York, which shot 47 percent (46-of-97).

"I think finally the spirit of the team is there," Thomas said. "I just think they are a team now."

Thomas made that claim after his team equaled a season high with three straight victories. Three is the longest winning streak in Thomas' two-year tenure as coach, and the Knicks have won just 11 of 41 games since a three-game winning streak in mid-January.

"I just think the collective spirit of the team has gotten better," Thomas said. "It came late, but team-wise, I just think the camaraderie of the team, the players the way they feel about each other, the locker room - guys feel good about themselves."

"We want to play as well as we can every night," Jones said. "Of course, it's too late to make the playoffs, but it's not too late to play well."

Walsh watched his new team in person for the first time after seeing only highlights of the wins over Orlando and Detroit. Before the game, Walsh conducted a lengthy press conference during which he stated he will meet with Thomas before the season ends next Wednesday in Indiana.

One thing that Thomas will not have to worry about is a 60-loss season. The Knicks ensured they would at worst finish with 59 defeats, equaling the mark set two seasons ago under Larry Brown.

"At this time of year, it would be easy for us to hang it up," New York forward David Lee said. "We have made a decision from a practice standpoint to continue to play the way we are capable of playing. Guys have stepped it up. We are just coming together as a team."

They barely did that Wednesday and almost blew a five-point lead in the final minute as Robinson missed a 3-pointer before Emeka Okafor dunked with 27.7 seconds left. Jones missed an off-balance layup attempt with 3.9 seconds remaining, and Charlotte called a timeout after Jared Dudley grabbed the rebound.

Dudley inbounded to Okafor whose attempt to tie it at the buzzer fell short.

"I thought he got bumped, but you're not going to get that call," Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said. "So he goes up, he gets hit and kind of throws it up. It is what it is. I thought we had a good look and a good shot at getting it."

The near-comeback denied Charlotte a franchise-record fifth straight road win. It also off-set a stellar second half by Raymond Felton, who scored 17 of his 24 points in the final two quarters.

Jason Richardson also had a solid second half as he scored 15 of his 25 points. Okafor added 24 points and Matt Carroll chipped in 17 for Charlotte, which gave up 18 straight points in the first half.

"We did a good job coming back into the game, but it's a tired long season," Richardson said. "We didn't come out well in the first quarter. I think we burnt a lot of energy in the second half trying to play catch up."

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