NEW YORK, Dec. 26 (Ticker) --
The New York Knicks nearly blew a 16-point
fourth-quarter lead against the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.
Then Tim Thomas
came to the rescue.
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Thomas scored eight of his season-high 20 points in the final
four minutes as the Knicks edged the Bobcats, 91-82, preventing
the visitors from posting their first road winning streak.
and Allan Houston
chipped in 16 points apiece for
New York, which placed guard Jamal Crawford
-- its second-leading
scorer -- on the injured list with turf toe before the game.
With Crawford out at least three weeks, the Knicks had several
players step up, placing five players in double figures while
rebounding from a pair of poor losses to Dallas and Boston.
The Knicks opened a 76-60 cushion on a jumper by Moochie Norris
with 10:07 remaining but could not put away the Bobcats.
Charlotte, which rallied from an eight-point deficit vs. the
Knicks and posted 107-101 home win on December 4, pulled within
79-77 with 4:23 left after Steve Smith
nailed the second of
Smith also led the Bobcats' comeback against New York earlier
this month, scoring 20 points. But his 3-pointer turned out to
be Charlotte's last basket.
Following Smith's jumper, Thomas countered with a layup and a
pair of free throws to open an 83-79 edge with 3:09 remaining.
He then split a pair at the line with 1:55 remaining and - after
Charlotte point guard Jason Hart
threw the ball into the stands
-- nailed an uncontested 3-pointer to make it 89-80 with 25
Thomas turned in one of his better outings as a Knick as he made
7-of-11 shots and set a season high in points for the second
straight game. He also was able to capitalize on consistent
open looks due to double-teams on Houston.
"I would think they'd rather leave me open than (Houston),"
Thomas said. "I knew tonight it was going to be key for me to
try and take advantage of that."
"It's a different look," Houston added. "It's something we
haven't done as much because we really haven't had that look. I
try to look for Tim a little bit more because he's 6-10, and if
he feels like you have confidence in him, it gets him going."
Thomas, whose inconsistency has been a frustrating issue for the
Knicks, also helped them avoid another collapse.
New York has lost five games this month when leading at
halftime, blowing a 16-point lead to Detroit on December 15 and
a 14-point edge to Orlando on December 3. The Knicks also have
struggled to hold big leads in games they have won and have
played 20 games decided by 10 points or fewer.
"It was good to get back on track," said Houston, who played a
season-high 29 minutes in his first start of the season. "We
can't feel great about this win. A win is a win but we are a
team with enough talent to not let these types of games get
Thomas, who frequently is booed by fans at Madison Square
Garden, also shook off any lack of energy due to the early start
and posted double figures in points for the fourth time in five
"I want it myself," said Thomas, who has suffered two deaths in
his family this year. "But every game is a different situation.
I just try to fit in and be aggressive when I can."
Rookie Emeka Okafor
posted his 15th straight double-double for
the Bobcats after collecting 23 points and 15 rebounds. It is
the longest streak by a rookie since Shaquille O'Neal
15 straight double-doubles for Orlando in 1992-93.
The Bobcats lost their first 10 road games before winning at
Houston on Wednesday, 90-87. But they shot under 38 percent
(33-of-88), missed their final six baskets and committed 19
"We just weren't very good consistently tonight," Charlotte
coach Bernie Bickerstaff
said. "We fought back and got
ourselves in position but then we made two critical mistakes.
We had a couple of turnovers and then sometimes we took shots
that were turnovers."
The Knicks overcame some early sluggishness and took a 47-42
lead into the locker room. They opened their first double-digit
lead at 58-46 following Houston's 3-pointer with 7:33 remaining
in the third quarter, and entered the fourth with a 72-60
scored 13 of his 16 points in the first quarter
and Gerald Wallace
collected 11 and 14 rebounds for Charlotte,
which has lost eight games by 10 points or fewer.