<
>

New Jersey goes 15 minutes without a field goal

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Jerome Williams doesn't take
umbrage when he hears the Knicks knocked as a poor defensive team.
He knows the statement is mostly true, and he's doing something
about it.

Williams and Nazr Mohammed led a strong defensive effort in a
game otherwise defined by offensive ineptitude, with the New York
Knicks holding the New Jersey Nets without a basket for 15 minutes
of an 87-79 victory Tuesday night.

Jamal Crawford scored 30 points but was one of the few players
on either team who managed to get his offense going, and even he
missed his last seven shots.

The Knicks are one of just three NBA teams to have allowed
opponents to shoot better than 46 percent, and their lack of any
type of physical, intimidating presence has been one of their
glaring deficiencies.

"It doesn't bother me, it's just something we have to work hard
at getting better at," Williams said. "You want to work on your
weaknesses, and that's a weakness we know we have.

Williams has been one of the few defensive options for coach
Lenny Wilkens to turn to, and he has begun to see consistent
playing time in recent fourth quarters when the Knicks have needed
a stopper.

On Tuesday, Williams helped force the Nets into a stretch of
15:02 in which they went 0-for-17 from the field with 13 turnovers.

Williams logged 26 minutes and was often matched against Richard
Jefferson, who led New Jersey with 22 points but missed his final
seven shots.

"We came out of training camp and I wasn't very happy with our
defense, but I felt we would get better as time went on," Wilkens
said. "We're starting to get better, and in that fourth quarter I
thought we showed a lot of character with our defense."

It was only the third victory for New York in the last 19 games
between the teams, and the Knicks snapped a seven-game losing
streak at the Meadowlands against the remnants of the team that
swept them out of the first round of the playoffs last spring.

The Nets, struggling to find any kind of rhythm with Jason
Kidd's playing time severely limited, went through an abysmal
stretch of 15:02 spanning the third and fourth quarters in which
they scored just five points on foul shots.

Kidd, who played 21 minutes and had just two assists, is under
playing time restrictions set by the team's medical staff.

"They know best at this point. I could tell them I feel great,
but there is a bigger picture," Kidd said. "Longevity is what I
think about now, being around in April and for next five years to
be able to play without pain."

Kurt Thomas had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Mohammed
contributed to the defensive effort with eight blocked shots --
double his previous career-high.

The Knicks overcame 23 turnovers and a shooting drought of their
own in which they had no field goals in the final 6:31 and scored
their final 10 points from the foul line.

Eric Williams added 21 points for the Nets and Kidd had 15 -- 10
in the final quarter.

Kidd's 3-pointer with 40 seconds left pulled New Jersey to
83-79, but Crawford made two free throws, Brian Scalabrine missed a
3 and Williams sank a pair from the line with 26.7 seconds left to
end the Nets' final threat.

Game notes
Knicks G Allan Houston sat out the entire second half,
Wilkens saying he rested him so Houston would be available
Wednesday against Detroit on the second night of a back-to-back
set. Houston, in his third game back after recovering from chronic
knee soreness, said he felt some injury-related stiffness but could
have played in the third and/or fourth quarter. ... Nets G Travis
Best strained his right groin late in the first half and did not
return, and C Alonzo Mourning missed his third consecutive game due
to a variety of nagging injuries. There is no timetable for
Mourning's return. ... Knicks starting F Tim Thomas had another
poor game, shooting 1-for-7 with two turnovers in just 11 minutes.
It was his first game back at the Meadowlands since he hit the
floor hard on a foul by Nets C Jason Collins during the teams'
first-round playoff series. Thomas' anger over that episode has
been directed almost exclusively at Collins' former teammate,
Kenyon Martin. "I promised everybody I was going to leave it
alone, and I've left it alone," Thomas said.