<
>

Okafor has 18 boards, Knight 18 assists in win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The oldest player on the NBA's newest
team showed he still has something left.

Steve Smith scored 20 points and hit two clutch shots in the
final three minutes as the Charlotte Bobcats overcame a 41-point
performance from Jamal Crawford and defeated the New York Knicks
107-101 Saturday night.

"What we've done is play him three or four games and then sit
him for a game or two so he gets his legs back," Bobcats coach
Bernie Bickerstaff of the 35-year-old Smith. "He had his legs
tonight, and with Steve, it's all about savvy.

Smith hit a contested 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:29
left to break a tie, then drained a fallaway jumper with 1:52 left
to put the Bobcats ahead 101-97.

"As a veteran, I looked up and saw we were tied and thought if
I can get a 3 it would put a dagger in them," Smith said. "I was
thinking I should try the 3 since we were tied. If you miss it,
it's still tied up, but if you make it, you get that cushion."

Emeka Okafor added 20 points and 18 rebounds -- his sixth
straight double-double -- while Brevin Knight had 18 assists and hit
two clinching free throws with 38.8 seconds left.

Crawford shot 17-of-25 but managed just four points in the final
quarter and missed his last five shots. He also had a turnover with
44 seconds left and the Knicks trailing by four.

"To be perfectly honest, my performance doesn't matter because
we lost," Crawford said. "We didn't get the stops that we needed
at the end in order to win. It stings more to lose the close
games."

Nazr Mohammed added 15 points and 17 rebounds for New York,
which committed 20 turnovers in losing its second straight game and
appeared weary at the end playing its fourth game in five nights.
Charlotte had been off since Tuesday.

Crawford scored 27 points in the first half, including three
3-pointers, as the Bobcats struggled to find someone who could
guard him. Gerald Wallace normally would have drawn the assignment,
but he was in street clothes after suffering a concussion in
practice Thursday.

"What an amazing performance by Crawford," Bickerstaff said.
"We were up in him, defending him, and he was hitting tough
shots."

The Bobcats dressed only nine players with Wallace, Eddie House
(excused absence) and Jahidi White (right shoulder strain) out.
House was waived after the game.

"Eddie handled himself as a professional since he joined our
organization and we know we will see him on an NBA roster very
soon," coach Bernie Bickerstaff said in a news release announcing
the move. "We had a situation here with a lot of players at one
position and this was a difficult decision."

Charlotte erased an eight-point second-quarter deficit, taking a
78-77 lead on Smith's 3-pointer with 1:01 left in the third.

Crawford responded with his on 3 over Keith Bogans on the next
possession, then dunked off a steal to give New York a 81-78 lead
after three quarters.

The game went back-and-forth in the final period, with five lead
changes and four ties.

"Whenever you go into someone's arena and you know how tough
they play, you are automatically in for a challenge," Knicks guard
Stephon Marbury said of the expansion Bobcats. "Tonight we simply
didn't meet that challenge."
^Notes:@ Wallace was scheduled to travel with the team to Los
Angeles late Saturday, although he is expected to miss the first
two games of the West Coast trip. ... Allan Houston traveled with
the Knicks, but did not play. He's hopeful to return from a knee
injury at some point during their four-game road trip.