Houston made a 15-foot jump shot with 4.4 seconds left in
overtime as the New York Knicks kept the Utah from clinching a 20th
straight playoff berth with a 94-92 victory Friday night.
"There's nothing like that. It's special having a memory like
that,'' said Houston, who finished with 27 points. "Our guys made
a huge effort to get us in that position.''
The Knicks were just 2-for-7 in the overtime, but that was still better than the Jazz, who were just 1-for-11 from the field after rallying to force overtime.
Utah had one final chance at the end, but Kurt Thomas, who had 20 points and nine rebounds, swatted away John Stockton's tying attempt from the lane just before the buzzer.
"We just didn't make shots,'' said Stockton, who had Utah's only basket in overtime. "It was less than pretty.''
The Knicks blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter but
held on to tie the season series for the second straight year.
"It wasn't going well late in the fourth quarter, but the guys
kept fighting and we found a way to scrap it out,'' said Latrell
Sprewell, who had just 6 points -- 10.7 below his average. "Al hit
a big shot to take us home.''
New York improved to 34-42, but still trails Milwaukee by 3½ games for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
"I think we all want to end on a high note and get as many wins
as we possibly can regardless of the standings,'' Sprewell said.
Karl Malone led Utah with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight
assists. Andrei Kirilenko added 16 points and 12 rebounds, Greg
Ostertag pulled down 11 rebounds and Matt Harpring had 12 points
and 10 rebounds.
The Jazz held a 59-39 rebounding advantage that didn't make up for poor shooting down the stretch. With the loss and the Lakers' win over Memphis, the Jazz dropped to seventh place in the Western Conference.
Utah's next chance to clinch a playoff berth is Sunday at Seattle.
"It was an interesting game to watch, but we have to learn to play under those conditions because that is what playoff basketball is all about,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
Former Utah player Shandon Anderson, who was heckled and booed
throughout the night, scored 17. Clarence Weatherspoon finished
with 10 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who had lost three
Two putbacks by Kirilenko early in the fourth were the Jazz's
only field goals of the period until they rallied with 3:31 left.
After Kirilenko's second tip, which gave the Jazz a 77-74 lead with 9:13 left, the Knicks took control with a 14-1 run. Charlie Ward started it with a 3-pointer that tied it and the Knicks took off from there.
Houston made a 3 to give the Knicks an 86-78 lead and added
another field goal that put New York up by 10 with 4:07 left.
Then it was the Knicks' turn to go cold. New York didn't score
again until Thomas' jumper in the lane with 14.2 seconds left gave
it a 90-88 lead.
Utah had plenty of time to tie it again and did when Malone
found Ostertag alone for a layup with 3.7 seconds left. Ostertag
also blocked Anderson's last-second attempt after a Knicks timeout.
The game grew heated as it went on. Malone and Utah's Tony
Massenburg drew technicals, and Malone and Weatherspoon went
face-to-face after Malone appeared to trip Weatherspoon as he was
trying to get downcourt late in the third quarter.
After the players were separated, Malone and Knicks coach Don Chaney got tangled briefly and exchanged words when Chaney went out to get Weatherspoon.
Sloan started walking toward the argument along with a few players, but no punches were thrown. Malone, who received a technical a few minutes earlier, was called for a foul on the play.
"I thought it was a very aggressive game and I love those kinds
of games,'' Chaney said.
Weatherspoon left the game with 4:51 left in the first
quarter with a badly dislocated index finger on his left hand. New
York trainers popped the finger back into place and Weatherspoon
returned early in the second quarter. ... The Knicks were playing
without reserve forward Othella Harrington, who did not dress
because of a sore right ankle. ... New York's Travis Knight, a Salt
Lake City native, was scoreless in 15 minutes.