New York 103, Chicago 92

NEW YORK, Dec. 22 (AP) -- Six days ago, the New York Knicks walked out of Madison Square Garden as embarrassments. They left the same court Friday night to a standing ovation.

Jamal Crawford scored 30 points, and the Knicks shook off their numbers problem again to beat the Chicago Bulls 103-92 for their season-high third straight victory.

Frequently booed at home earlier in the season, the Knicks didn't gain any new fans after brawling with the Denver Nuggets late in a blowout loss Saturday night. But they've won over the crowd by following one of the darkest moments in franchise history with some spirited performances.

``I think they recognize the effort that we're giving out there due to the circumstances,'' forward David Lee said. ``Our team, once again our statement is we're going to do our best with these shorter numbers.''

Eddy Curry, who along with Crawford is a former Bulls player, added 20 points as the Knicks won three in a row for the first time since April and snapped Chicago's five-game winning streak. Stephon Marbury scored 19 before departing to a loud ovation in the final minute.

Still missing injured starters Steve Francis and Quentin Richardson along with the suspended Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries and Mardy Collins, the Knicks used nine players after going with eight in their last two games, a pair of overtime victories over Utah and Charlotte.

``We've definitely come closer together,'' Crawford said. ``Like I said, you hate to see anything unfortunate happen and that was an unfortunate incident. But I think it's brought our team closer together.''

And they needed everybody they could find because of foul trouble to starting forwards Channing Frye and Lee. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas even had to play reserve centers Jerome James and Kelvin Cato at the same time - and the seldom-used James even provided a brief spark in the second quarter.

``We're feeling good,'' Curry said. ``We don't want to start patting ourselves on the back yet though, but I think we definitely feel like we're playing good basketball right now.''

After overcoming large deficits to win both those games, the Knicks built the big lead this time. New York took control by building the lead to 14 in the third quarter, and never led Chicago make a serious run.

Ben Gordon scored 27 points for the Bulls, who had won 12 of 13. Luol Deng added 20.

``We pretty much got thoroughly outplayed in almost every area, especially in the second half,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. ``The guards went by us at will. They were over the glass on us. They dominated rebounding the ball most of the game. Just in general, it looked like they wanted it more than we did.''

The Knicks were up two before Crawford hit a 3-pointer and found Curry with a lob pass on consecutive possessions to cap a 9-0 spurt, pushing the lead to 67-56 with 8:21 left in the third. Crawford buried another three to cap a run of seven straight New York points, making it 74-60 with 4:37 remaining in the period.

New York led 77-69 entering the fourth and the lead grew to 11 after Marbury's 3-pointer with 10:20 to play. The lead stayed at double digits for nearly all the way after that as the Knicks enjoyed a rare easy game.

The Knicks overwhelmed the Bulls on the boards, 57-36. Frye had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Lee added 12 points and 14 boards.

``We didn't do a great job defensively, especially on our defensive rebounding,'' Deng said. ``They crashed the boards and we got to do a better job.''

Gordon came off the bench to score 10 points in four minutes, and the Bulls shot 58 percent in building a 30-23 lead after one. But the pace slowed in the second, when the teams combined for 17 fouls, which helped the Knicks turn things around.

With Lee and Frye both on the bench after picking up their third fouls and Curry sitting down with two, Thomas went to James and Cato at the same time in the quarter. James converted a three-point play that gave New York the lead with 2:18 left, and the Knicks led 54-51 at halftime.

Notes: Friday marked the three-year anniversary of Thomas' hiring as Knicks president of basketball operations. And while there's still hasn't been a playoff victory in his tenure, Thomas thinks the Knicks are headed in the right direction behind Curry, Lee and Frye. ``I like where we are. Our future's really bright,'' Thomas said. ``If you look at our frontcourt, we've got some of the best young bigs in the league right now that are playing. I like where we're going. I think from this point on you can continue to move up the ladder in this league.'' ... The Bulls had won four straight and eight of the last nine meetings.

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