No rest for weary Marbury
NEW YORK -- The box score indicates that Stephon Marbury couldn't have done much more to prevent the playoff death sentence of all playoff death sentences -- the 3-0 deficit. (Cue the broadcaster uttering the stat that no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 hole to win a seven-game series).
Marbury tied for his team's top scoring honors with 18 points, bagged 10 assists and grabbed six rebounds in the Knicks' 81-78 home loss to New Jersey, choosing to rest only when timeouts were called, quarters had expired and halves had ended.
He set this task for himself -- to play all 48 minutes -- because, in his mind, the undermanned Knicks couldn't afford not to have him on the floor for every second of the game he's always dreamed of while growing up as a New York City point-guard prodigy in Brooklyn.
Yet, deep down, Marbury thinks he could've done more for his hometown Knicks.
He could've gotten that driving layup to drop with the Knicks trailing 75-71 and he could've made the open 3-pointer that would've given New York the lead at 76-75. And the two free throws with three seconds left with the Knicks down three? He should've made the first and the second, instead of clanking the first and having to intentionally miss the second.
"We didn't win so I don't think that he's really satisfied with this at all," Penny Hardaway said. "He made some huge shots for us. We just didn't get over the hump."
"We're supposed to play with that type of effort. It's the playoffs," Marbury said. "We shouldn't be satisfied with how we just played. We've got to be satisfied with a win."
Marbury failed to score a second-half field goal during the Knicks' double-digit defeats in New Jersey, and the odds were against him ending that streak without any extra time to rest. But in the 39th minute of his personal Game 3 marathon, Marbury ended the second-half drought with a layup. He then sank a 3-pointer to reduce New Jersey's advantage to eight at 69-61.
He found himself adding to his misses more than his makes, as the Nets pushed their lead back to 12. But he fought through the fatigue, setting up Hardaway's 3-pointer that cut the deficit to six points at 75-69 and sinking the jumper that brought the Knicks within two at 75-73 with 2:09 remaining.
"I continued to play," Marbury said. "I was just trying to make plays for others."
"Steph never wants to be taken out of the game," Frank Williams said. "When you have those type of guys around you, you're going to get out there on the floor and battle with them. That's the sign of a warrior and a guy with a big heart."
Marbury would struggle the rest of the way. His 3-point miss -- the one that would've put New York up by one with 1:36 to play -- was his final field-goal misfire of a 7-for-23 night. He had the chance to be the hero, but Kenyon Martin fouled him before he attempted a game-winning 3-pointer. Though the refs ruled Marbury was in the act of passing rather than shooting at that point, Marbury missed the free throws that would've given his team the slimmest chance to tie the game.
Despite the outcome and the improbable comeback now facing the Knicks, Marbury still had hope for Sunday's Game 4.
"I believe we can win," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we can win."
"No one in this locker room feels like we're going to be swept," Nazr Mohammed concurred. "I think everybody feels like me -- we're ready to play the next game."
Count on Marbury being there for every minute of it.
Joe Lago is the NBA editor at ESPN.com.
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