for this game

Crawford, Knicks start hot, hold off Thunder

Nov 15, 2008 - 5:51 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- At the start of the fourth quarter, the scoreboard played various clips featuring the word composure. The New York Knicks eventually regained theirs and wound up with another win.

Jamal Crawford scored 29 points as the Knicks held off a late rally by the Oklahoma City Thunder en route to a 116-106 victory on Friday night.

Zach Randolph collected 29 points and a season-high 19 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double as New York moved three games over .500 for the first time since December 29, 2004 under coach Lenny Wilkens. He had the double-double by halftime and then came through with seven points and six rebounds in the final 12 minutes.

"Tonight we played a good three quarters and, in the fourth, we let it go and they didn't give up," Crawford said. "Our offense is designed to take a lot of shots and shoot it quick. They started to make a lot of shots in the fourth quarter and their confidence started to go up and ours started to drop."

"We got a little mentally tired," Randolph said. "They played good in the second half, but we bounced back. The way we play, teams can come back and get hot and we can get cold, and that is what we did tonight."

David Lee and Nate Robinson combined for 33 points off the bench for the Knicks, who shot 45 percent (40-of-89) from the field and are off to their best nine-game start since the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 campaign.

Four of New York's six victories have come against losing teams, including Wednesday's 132-103 rout in Memphis that saw the Knicks hit a franchise-record 19 3-pointers. New York only connected on 7-of-27 from beyond the arc in this one and shot 34 percent in the second half but, considering the depths of losing in the last four seasons, nobody is about to complain.

"It is (significant)," Crawford said. "It's early and nobody knew what we could do. If somebody told me, 6-3, I'd take that."

"We came out, we fought and we played good for the first two quarters," Robinson said. "Then we had a little letdown until the fourth. It was an ugly win, but we got it done."

Kevin Durant returned from a sore left ankle injury and scored 23 points and rookie Russell Westbrook added 19 for the Thunder, who have lost six straight and dropped to a league-worst 1-8.

The Knicks led by double digits most of the night after getting off to a 27-17 start. They shot 54 percent (26-of-48) and held a 33-20 rebounding edge in the first half en route to a 68-44 lead.

"We have to start of well," Durant said. "Tonight, they just jumped on top of us early. In this league, once you're down 30, you can't come back and win the game. We just have to get it going early."

The lead stretched to 30 and stayed over 24 before Oklahoma City closed the third out with a 10-1 run to get within 16.

"I thought that we were the more-aggressive team in the second half, but they were the more-aggressive team in the first," Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "Had we played that hard in the first half, this would have been a heckuva basketball game."

The Thunder got within 101-91 on a 18-footer by Jeff Green with 6:33 remaining. Just 79 seconds later, Westbrook's two-handed dunk brought Oklahoma City within 102-95.

New York allowed Oklahoma City to hang around and held a 108-100 lead with 2:20 left when Durant converted a three-point play. On the next possession, Crawford hit a long jumper and, following a miss by Durant, Randolph put back his own miss for a 12-point lead with 94 seconds left.

It was the second time in the early weeks that the Knicks almost blew a big lead. In their season opener against Miami, they were up by 23 in the third and came away with a five-point victory.

"It's human nature to celebrate a little bit early," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We were up and, after Memphis, and playing so well in the first half, I thought we didn't run out of energy physically, but mentally, we just got a little happy.

"I think that's normal and I probably led the charge in being too cool. We'll work on that, and that's something with the pace of the game we just got to bear down and keep doing what we do. On the other side, you shoot 70 percent, probably in the second half, you're going to shoot 30 because it will always come back to the norm and those are just things we'll have to guard against."

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