NEW YORK, March 14 (Ticker) --
With good friend Chris Webber
looking on, Latrell Sprewell
made sure the New York Knicks did not blow another big lead.
Sprewell scored 43 points and turned back a handful of rallies to lead the Knicks to a 113-96 victory over the league-leading Sacramento Kings, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Webber and Sprewell are good friends from their days as teammates with the Golden State Warriors. However, Sacramento's All-Star forward sat out his lone Madison Square Garden appearance for the second straight year, this time with a dislocated right index finger.
With Webber reduced to spectator status, Sprewell stole the show. In his third 40-point game of the season, he made 17-of-26 shots, many of them squelching surges by the Kings.
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Hedo Turkoglu struggled with his shot, and his Kings struggled with Spree.
"I had the hot hand," Sprewell said. "Any opportunity where I was able to get a shot off and get a good look, I just wanted to make sure to get the ball up. I didn't want to force shots, but if I was open, I was definitely looking to let it go."
"I think he was unbelievable," Knicks coach Don Chaney said. "When we stumbled, he picked us up. To me, that's the making of a star and a leader." Kurt Thomas
continued his strong play with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who established season high for points in a quarter and half and ended a two-game losing streak. Mike Bibby
scored 21 points for the Kings, who fell to 3-1 on their five-game road trip and 17-8 without Webber, who sat out the first 20 games of the season with a severely sprained ankle.
"As many games as I missed with my ankle, the last thing I wanted to do was sit out," said Webber, who was courted by the Knicks as a free agent last summer.
The Knicks have lost 14 games this season in which they have held double-digit leads, most recently a 20-point second-half cushion to Philadelphia on Tuesday. They looked ready to give away another as the Kings fought back three times.
"That's the one thing about the season that's been disappointing," Sprewell said. "We've been right there in a lot of games and let them get away."
Sprewell did not let go of this one. Late in the second quarter, he made a 3-pointer that helped the Knicks rebuild their lead to 64-48 after the Kings had cut a 19-point deficit to 51-42.
Bibby's hot shooting helped Sacramento close the deficit to 74-67 with 5:17 left in the third quarter. The Kings could have gotten closer, but Scot Pollard
missed two free throws and Peja Stojakovic
missed a layup.
Sprewell responded with a 3-pointer that rebuilt the lead to 10 points and triggered a 12-0 run. Thomas scored the last seven points of the surge, giving the Knicks an 86-67 lead with 1:17 to go.
"We missed a lot of opportunities. Sprewell hit some huge shots," said Kings coach Rick Adelman, whose team was playing its fourth game in five nights and looked tired. "He really shot the ball well. They had an answer."
A 3-pointer by Charlie Ward
gave New York its largest lead at 93-73 with 8:48 remaining before the Kings made a final push, pulling within 95-85 on Pollard's layup with 5:14 to play.
Sprewell came back with a runner in the lane, then added two free throws 16 seconds later for a 99-85 lead. He made three more baskets down the stretch as the Knicks pulled away.
"We could easily had another game where we let the lead go, but we were able to hold on this time," Sprewell said.
"He was unconscious tonight," Kings guard Bobby Jackson
said. "He was making shots and you gotta give it to him. He was unstoppable." Allan Houston
scored 16 points and Mark Jackson
added 12 and 11 assists for the Knicks, who shot 49 percent (45-of-92) and made 17-of-18 free throws. They committed just 10 turnovers and held a 50-45 edge on the boards.
"We've had so many negative things going this year that something like this, you can deposit in your positive bank," Houston said. "This is something that we can definitely deposit."
Jackson and Doug Christie
scored 13 points each for the Kings, who shot 41 percent (36-of-87). Sacramento has lost 18 of its last 19 visits to New York, including the last five.
Sprewell scored 10 points in under three minutes during an 18-4 burst in the first quarter that gave the Knicks the lead for good. New York shot a staggering 73 percent (16-of-22) in the period, opening a 38-19 lead.
Sprewell had 10 more in the second quarter, finishing the half with 24 points. Meanwhile, he was shutting down Stojakovic, who finished with just 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
New York's opening period surpassed a 37-point first quarter vs. Dallas on January 3. The first half was a point better than the first half against Dallas and the second half vs. Milwaukee on January 12.