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Crawford carries Knicks over Nuggets in dramatic finish

Nov 9, 2006 - 5:02 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- With Steve Francis sidelined, Jamal Crawford started in his place. Then he finished off the Denver Nuggets.

Crawford hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left as the New York Knicks erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 109-107 victory over the Nuggets.

Quentin Richardson had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 50 percent (40-of-80) from the field to win for just the second time in their last seven trips to Denver.

"They never say die and we just kept battling. We went small and spread the floor," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "Our guards were able to get into the lane. Jamal got it going, Nate (Robinson) got it going.

"It's great to win out on the road. It's great to go into someone's building and scratch out a win. Our guys were ready."

Francis sprained his ankle in Monday's loss to San Antonio, giving Crawford an opportunity. He scored 20 points in the final period, including a miraculous shot from well behind the arc to give the Knicks their first lead since the second quarter.

"I knew as bad as I was shooting the last three or four games that it wasn't going to stay like that," Crawford said. "My coaches and teammates have a lot of confidence in me. I've put in a lot of extra work and I knew it was just a matter of time."

"He was unbelievable tonight," Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said. "When he gets hot, you just give him the ball. Once (Crawford) gets it going, you just got to give him the ball and get out of the way."

Crawford had 35 points, seven assists and six rebounds. However, he was almost the goat.

The seventh-year guard turned the ball over near midcourt, going in the air 35 feet from the basket and having his poor pass broken up by J.R. Smith. However, he blocked a pass by Eduardo Najera, recovered the ball and drained a deep 3-pointer to make it 109-106, stunning the Pepsi Center crowd.

"You have to do whatever you have to do to get that steal back," Crawford said. "I thought there was less time than there was. I was in rhythm and when you're in rhythm you have to let it go."

"He'll make a mistake and then battle his tail off to make up for the mistake," Thomas said. "He did that tonight. He finally got hot and got us ignited."

Denver had a chance to tie it on the final possession, but Smith missed a follow shot off Carmelo Anthony's intentionally missed free throw as time expired.

New York had a foul to give and sent Anthony to the line to avoid a potential game-tying 3-pointer. After he made the first free throw, Anthony missed the second on purpose, but Smith flew in from the arc and misfired on a point blank shot from the left baseline.

"We were fortunate to get the bounce," Denver coach George Karl said. "I think it was a play that we actually executed pretty well."

Trailing, 91-79, with 8:29 left, the Knicks went on a 13-3 run capped by Marbury's transition layup off Crawford's steal.

Marbury, who scored only 10 points, tied the game with a shot from the arc with 44 seconds remaining.

"It was a shot that was needed at the end of the game," Marbury said. "We just continued to play hard. We were very resilient at the end of the game. We never thought that we were going to lose. The whole second half we never allowed ourselves to get down."

Anthony had 37 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Nuggets, who shot 45 percent (38-of-85) but were outrebounded, 46-37.

"I think when we run we play great, when we slow down we are just another NBA basketball team," Karl said. "We ran out of the gas. We're snake bit a little bit and playing with a lack of confidence. A win turns that around."

Najera started in place of Kenyon Martin, who was scratched with right knee inflammation. He will have an MRI on Thursday.

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