Short-handed and tired, the New York Knicks might be playing their best basketball of the season.

The Knicks try for a season-high third straight win when they host the red-hot Chicago Bulls, who have beaten New York four times in a row, on Friday night.

The Knicks (11-17) have not lost since their ugly brawl with the Denver Nuggets on Saturday that resulted in four New York players drawing suspensions. With just nine players dressed Wednesday, the Knicks pulled off a second straight stunning finish to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 111-109 in double overtime.

With 0.1 seconds left - not enough time to catch and shoot - David Lee tipped in a long inbounds pass from Jamal Crawford with his back to the basket to give the Knicks their second straight last-second overtime win.

``I've never seen a play like that and it worked to perfection,'' Crawford said.

Without three suspended players - Nate Robinson (10 games), Mardy Collins (six) and Jared Jeffries (four) - plus two injured starters in Steve Francis (knee) and Quentin Richardson (back spasms), the Knicks erased a 19-point deficit. New York managed to win despite making only two field goals in the final 8 minutes of regulation.

``I think these guys will absolutely die if we have to keep playing them these many minutes at this type of intensity,'' New York coach Isiah Thomas said.

In the Knicks' first game after the brawl Monday night, they stunned Utah 97-96 in overtime on Stephon Marbury's layup just before time expired.

``It's more gratifying winning like how we're winning now, because we know that we're down the numbers,'' said Marbury, who played 52 minutes and reached the 15,000-point mark Wednesday.

Against the Bobcats, Channing Frye matched a career high with 30 points, while Eddy Curry had 29 on 11-for-15 shooting and Crawford had 25 in 54 minutes. Lee finished with 19 rebounds.

With the status of Francis and Richardson uncertain for Friday's game, a win over the Eastern Conference's hottest team would be even more gratifying for Marbury and the Knicks.

Chicago (15-10) will be looking for a sixth consecutive victory and its 13th in 14 games after starting 3-9. The Bulls have won both meetings with the Knicks this season, defeating New York 106-95 on Nov. 25 at Madison Square Garden and 102-85 three nights later at the United Center.

Guard Ben Gordon, averaging 21.4 points in nine games against New York, had 22 in Chicago's 94-89 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

``It's a good feeling to get a win against a team like that,'' said Gordon, who scored 23 points in the last meeting with the Knicks.

Luol Deng had 23 points and matched a season high with 12 rebounds against the Lakers. Deng is averaging 18.0 points and 9.0 boards against the Knicks this season.

Chicago has won eight of the last nine matchups with New York and the last two at MSG.


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