Houston drops four of last five

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jamal Crawford had been practicing crazy shots
over and over again recently, preparing himself for the opportunity
to make a game-winning basket.

When a chance to put his practice to use arose Thursday night,
Crawford stuck his head in the huddle and asked New York Knicks
coach Lenny Wilkens for the final shot.

"I honestly practice those kinds of shots all the time,"
Crawford said. "I felt comfortable. I told coach I could knock it

Crawford proved to be prophetic, banking in a 3-pointer at the
buzzer to send the Knicks to their first road win of the season,
93-92 over the reeling Houston Rockets.

Crawford finished with 19 points, going 5-of-11 from the 3-point
arc, and Kurt Thomas added 23 points and 14 rebounds to hand the
Rockets their fourth loss in five games.

New York, which ends a four-game trip against Dallas on Friday,
came back from an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter,
getting clutch baskets from Crawford, Thomas and Stephon Marbury
down the stretch.

"It was a big win for us, and it really helps our psyche,"
Wilkens said. "It really helps our mental approach. The guys know
they can win one like this now."

The Knicks opened the quarter by scoring the first 11 points to
tie the score at 72, getting back-to-back 3s from Penny Hardaway.
Houston regained the lead and was ahead 92-88 with 41.4 seconds
left after Maurice Taylor's basket.

But Thomas scored on a jumper with 26.8 seconds left, Houston's
Tracy McGrady missed a running jumper with 2.9 seconds left and the
Thomas grabbed the rebound to set up the final shot.

After a timeout, Crawford came open to the right of the top of
the key, took the inbounds pass from Hardaway and banked in a 3 as
time expired. Crawford sprinted to the other end of the court, his
teammates chasing him until they caught up and mobbed him.

"I thought it was in all the way," Thomas said. "Whenever
your teammate tells you he's going to hit it coming out of the
huddle, you believe him. It was an unbelievable shot. But he said
he was going to make it."

Crawford did, and the Rockets players and fans watched in
stunned silence as the celebration went on for several minutes.

"It's tough to swallow," said McGrady, who led the Rockets
with 24 points. "But nobody's going to feel sorry for us. It's up
to us to regroup and try to find a way to close out games."

Yao Ming added 23 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, and Tyronn
Lue had 15 points.

Rockets second-year coach Jeff Van Gundy lost against the Knicks
for the first time after sweeping his former team by a combined 47
points in two games last season.

Van Gundy appears to have plenty of problems with his new team,
which followed up a loss to Atlanta with another embarrassing
collapse. The Rockets dropped two games below .500 at 4-6, a
surprisingly slow start for a team expected to challenge for the
Western Conference crown this year.

"We're getting what we deserve," a disgusted Van Gundy said.
"You need to avoid losses like that during your season. We're off
to an, obviously, very disappointing start and we'll see where we
go from here."

The Rockets, who let the Hawks rally from an 11-point deficit on
Tuesday, couldn't stop Marbury from getting into the lane and never
could figure out how to keep Thomas from getting open looks at the

Marbury scored eight of his 18 points in the final period, and a
couple of his 10 assists went to Thomas in the game's waning

Wilkens "just realized tonight that Houston was having problems
with the pick and roll," Thomas said. "And he just wanted to pick
and roll them to death."

Nazr Mohammed chipped in with 17 rebounds and 12 points for the

Game notes
Thomas passed Walt Bellamy to move into 24th place on the
Knicks' all-time scoring list. ... Yao made the 1,000th field goal
of his career in the first quarter. ... New York set season highs
with 50 rebounds and 27 assists. ... Rockets guard Charlie Ward
played against the Knicks, with whom he played for nine seasons,
for the first time as a starter. He went scoreless in 22 minutes.