<
>

Crawford helps Knicks finish off Kings in final seconds

NEW YORK (AP) -- On the day Jamal Crawford was demoted, his
reputation in New York still went up.

Crawford, back in a reserve role, scored eight of his 10 points
in the final 1:07 as the Knicks handed the Sacramento Kings their
season-high sixth straight loss, 102-97 Monday.

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas put Quentin Richardson back into the
starting lineup before the game and returned Crawford to the bench.
The move figured to give New York a badly needed defensive boost
after it allowed Charlotte to shoot 59 percent in a 126-110 loss on
Friday.

Crawford had only two points heading into the final minutes, but
he has been perhaps the Knicks' best clutch player during the last
two seasons. He played the entire final period, making two of his
three shots after going 1-of-8.

"Fourth quarter's the only time that matters," Crawford said.
"Honestly, Isiah and I have a different relationship, so it wasn't
like, 'I'm just going to take you out of the starting lineup.' He
asked me what I thought about it and I said what's best for the
team."

To the Knicks, that meant getting the ball to Crawford down the
stretch. He has seven go-ahead baskets in the final 10 seconds
since joining the team, and he gave New York the lead for good with
a floater with 18 seconds to play.

"He's one of the best today in the NBA at it," forward David
Lee said. "He finds a way to get in there and put up some kind of
shot. We love having the ball in his hands and he does a great
job."

Stephon Marbury scored 25 points and Eddy Curry added 24 points
and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who won for the fourth time in five
games. Lee finished with 15 points and 12 boards.

Kevin Martin scored 30 points for Sacramento, on its longest
skid since dropping the final seven games of the 1997-98 season.
Shareef Adbur-Rahim had 25 and Ron Artest, playing in his hometown
for the first time in nearly three years, finished with 12. He shot
4-of-15, missing a potential tying 3-pointer.

"It felt real good coming off but sometimes it just don't
fall," Artest said. "I'm sure the next time in the situation
again, I'm sure it'll go down. We had a chance to win. We're going
to get it together."

With the Knicks trailing by three, Crawford banked in a shot
with 1:07 remaining, then found Lee under the basket. Artest fouled
Lee, who made both free throws to give New York a 96-95 lead with
37 seconds left.

Abdur-Rahim put the Kings ahead for the final time, but Crawford
came right back with his go-ahead bucket. After a timeout, the
Kings turned it over on an illegal screen, and were forced to foul
Crawford. He made both to make it 100-97, then added another pair
after Artest's miss.

"By him coming off the bench and starting this year, it's
become an easy adjustment for him," Marbury said. "When he comes
in the game, it takes him some time. He made the big shots, down
the stretch he made the big free throws."

The weary Kings, who traveled overnight Saturday after losing at
home, lost another close one. Three of the defeats during their
skid, including Saturday's, came in overtime. Sacramento was only
19-of-28 (68 percent) from the foul line Monday.

"We got to the line 28 times but you've got to hit free
throws," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "We're one of the
better free-throw percent shooting teams in the league, but we have
not been down the stretch."

Sacramento led 27-23 after shooting 53 percent in the first
quarter. But the Kings got sloppy when the Knicks extended their
defense in the second, committing three turnovers to fuel a 9-0
spurt that gave New York a 34-28 lead. The Knicks led 49-47 at
halftime after Channing Frye's 3-pointer as time expired.

The Kings had nine turnovers against six assists in the first
half. Artest had two of his first three shots blocked and was
2-of-8 in 22 minutes.

Neither team led by more than five points in the third quarter,
which ended with Sacramento ahead 76-75 after Martin's jumper with
22 seconds remaining.

Game notes
The Knicks improved to 16-5 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
They had lost their previous two. ... The Kings had won two in a
row at MSG after losing 17 of their previous 18. ... Because of his
suspension for the brawl in Detroit and his trade last season from
Indiana to Sacramento, Artest hadn't played at Madison Square
Garden since Feb. 3, 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.