NEW YORK, Dec. 29 (Ticker) -- Stephon Marbury
's last two outings were
the type of performances that made him the focal point of both
franchises competing at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday
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Marbury scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter,
completely taking over the contest down the stretch, as the New
York Knicks ran their winning streak to three games with a
100-87 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 27-year-old Marbury spent his first two-plus seasons with
Minnesota and was expected to team with superstar Kevin Garnett
to give the Timberwolves an All-Star 1-2 punch. But despite his
immense talent, he wore out his welcome and was traded to New
Jersey in March 1999.
Marbury joined the Knicks in January and is being counted on to
help New York shake its recent doldrums. In his last two games,
he has flashed the brilliance that earned him two All-Star
berths and made him the fourth overall pick in the 1996 draft.
Against Orlando on Monday, Marbury had 34 points in a road win.
He may have been even better in this one, as New York snapped a
three-game home losing streak against Minnesota.
Marbury made 12-of-19 shots while collecting 11 assists and
seven rebounds. He is averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 assists
over his last five contests.
"He's playing his game," New York coach Lenny Wilkens
"For us to be good, he has to play his game every night. That
means he has to be the aggressor. He can't hesitate. He just
has to go for it."
"You have to pick your spots," Marbury said. "I was just taking
what the defense was giving me. When I go to the basket, I am
thinking about getting the contact because I know I am going to
added 19 points as the Knicks shot a season-best
54 percent (39-of-72) and earned a split of the season series.
Former Knick Latrell Sprewell
led Minnesota (16-11) with 22
points and Sam Cassell chipped in 20. Garnett had 17 points and
13 rebounds but was just 7-of-17 from the field.
"For us, of course KG (Garnett) was going to get his numbers,"
New York forward Tim Thomas
said. "We just let KG do his thing,
Kurt (Thomas) did a great job on him. That was our plan, to
just let KG get rolling and get into a rhythm and not let the
other guys beat us. Tonight, Kurt did a great job on KG and
everybody else just stepped up trying to control the wing guys."
Cassell buried a 3-pointer with 5:01 remaining to give the
Timberwolves an 83-81 lead. But Marbury scored nine straight
points and 10 overall during a game-ending 19-4 run.
"Stephon made some tough shots," Cassell said. "He got in the
lane and made some tough shots. He is a great ballplayer and he
showed why tonight."
Marbury's last two big efforts have come with backcourt mate
on the injured list with turf toe.
"I think what he is doing well is taking advantage of his
strength and quickness," New York guard Allan Houston
"When he makes up his mind, he puts so much pressure on the
Sprewell scored 12 points in the third as Minnesota used a 13-5
run over the final six-plus minutes of the quarter to cut its
deficit to 69-66. He was held scoreless in the fourth as the
Timberwolves made just one basket in the final 4:54 en route to
their fifth straight road loss.
"They made shots," said Sprewell, who was 9-of-23 from the
floor. "They did a good job. Steph was really aggressive."
"We exerted so much energy to just get back in the game, and
then Steph just got aggressive," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
said. "He made some big plays and their big guys made some big
shots off of Steph's looks."