Thomas begins coaching tenure with 3OT win over Grizzlies

MEMPHIS (AP) -- Isiah Thomas and the Knicks got off to a good
start, despite a rocky finish.

It took three extra periods for the Knicks to defeat the Grizzlies 118-117. In NBA history, only one other season opener went into triple OT. That was on Oct. 18, 1974, when Portland beat Cleveland 131-129 in four overtimes.

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New York blew a 19-point, fourth-quarter lead Wednesday night
before beating the Memphis Grizzlies 118-117 in triple-overtime.

"It feels good to get Isiah and the team started right," guard
Jamal Crawford said. "(But) we have to learn to finish. We had
them down 19. We should have pushed it to 30."

Thomas said the close call wasn't all his team's fault.

"It was nothing we did wrong," he said. "It was everything
they did right. They were making shots and taking it to the rim."

Thomas, who is also the team's president, became the coach in
June to replace Larry Brown, who was fired after going 23-59 last

Knicks owner James Dolan has given Thomas an ultimatum -- show
"evident progress" in the team's performance this season or be
fired from both jobs.

Thomas said he saw good things in the Memphis game.

"We showed that we have great courage and fight, and we found a
way to win," he said. "I have a lot of respect for our guys."

Quentin Richardson made two free throws with 12 seconds left in
the third overtime and led New York with 31 points. Crawford had 21
points, Stephon Marbury added 19 and Eddy Curry had 17 points and
14 rebounds.

Richardson had 10 points in the overtimes, while Marbury had
seven before fouling out.

Chucky Atkins scored 10 of his 25 points in overtime for the
Grizzlies. Memphis got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Hakim Warrick
and 21 points from rookie Rudy Gray. Mike Miller had 18 points.

"It's real tough, being we played so hard and came back from
being down ... It's tough to lose by one after playing so hard,"
Gay said.

With the Knicks up 108-106, Atkins sent the game into the third
overtime with a driving layup with 28 seconds left in the second
extra period. Crawford got off a shot before the period ended but
it missed.

The Grizzlies missed five of eight free throws in the closing
1:40 of the first overtime, with Miller missing two in the final
seconds and Warrick missing the first of two opportunities. But
Warrick hit his remaining free throw with 4.9 seconds left to send
the game into the second overtime tied at 100.

Crawford fired from the top of the key but his shot fell short.

Memphis came back from the fourth-quarter deficit to force the
first overtime when a 3-point attempt by Crawford bounced off the
rim at the end of regulation.

After trailing from the half, Memphis took an 89-88 lead with
just over a minute to play in regulation on a steal and layup by
Gay. Marbury tied the score at 89, hitting the first of two free

Knicks rookie Renaldo Balkman, New York's first-round draft
pick, played eight minutes and missed both of his shots from the

Besides Gay, who was also a first-round selection, the Grizzlies
played rookie Kyle Lowry for 28 minutes after starter Damon
Stoudamire was sidelined with leg cramps. Lowry finished with six
points and 10 rebounds.

The Knicks were 8-33 on the road last season, so winning at
Memphis was a move in the right direction, even though it was a
bumpy one.

"It's never pretty on the road. It's always ugly," Thomas
said. "I was pleased with the whole team. They gave a gutsy
effort. There were some crazy plays at the end and we could have
caved in."

Game notes
The Knicks won their season opener for the first time in
five years. ... Memphis F Pau Gasol watched from the bench in a
suit. The All-Star is out after breaking his foot while playing for
Spain in the world championships this summer.