New York 106, Philadelphia 99

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 (AP) -- The Philadelphia 76ers lost another game and their other big-name star.

The 76ers completed paperwork on a buyout of Chris Webber's contract Wednesday night, just before finishing a 106-99 loss to the New York Knicks.

Less than a month after trading away Allen Iverson, the 76ers dropped their fourth straight as they commit to rebuilding around young players. Philadelphia fell to 9-26, a half-game better than Memphis for the worst record in the league.

"Two stars are gone and we're just playing,'' coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We're putting guys on the floor that have not been used to being out there in different situations. Growing pains are going to be there.''

Things look decidedly better for the Knicks.

Stephon Marbury scored 24 points, Eddy Curry added 20 points and 10 rebounds, and New York won its third straight to match its longest winning streak of the season.

Even better for the Knicks, they are nearly at full strength. Quentin Richardson scored 19 points in his return after missing 11 games with back spasms, and Nate Robinson also was back after he was banned 10 for his role in last month's brawl with Denver.

"We're a good enough basketball team right now that we can go and compete,'' Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "By the end of the season, we want to be one of those teams that are vying for a playoff position.''

Samuel Dalembert scored 18 points and Joe Smith - acquired in the Iverson trade and inheriting Webber's starting spot - had 16 for Philadelphia, which has lost 16 of its last 19 road games.

Webber had one-plus years remaining on his contract was due nearly $21 million this season and $22 million next season. The paperwork on his buyout was forwarded to the league office Wednesday night, and if there are no problems, the Sixers expect to announce that they have waived the power forward on Thursday.

"I'm sure he'll be going to a team that's contending,'' Philadelphia's Kyle Korver said. "I've talked to him and he's talking with a few teams. I'm sorry obviously to see him go. I know he's probably happy to go somewhere else and play a little more, try to do his thing contending for a title.''

The buyout is the Sixers' first big move since Larry Brown joined them as an executive vice president, returning to the NBA for the first time since he was fired in June after going 23-59 in his one season as New York's coach.

The Knicks rarely looked this good when he was here.

New York came home from a five-game road trip and won its fifth straight game at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are 7-4 since last month's brawl with Denver.

New York never trailed and blew it open late in the first half. The Knicks outscored the 76ers 12-0 over a three-minute span, turning a 12-point lead into a 58-34 advantage with 2:28 remaining in the second quarter. The Knicks led 61-42 at halftime after shooting 60 percent from the field and going 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

"We had a big lead going into the half and that was a big emphasis,'' Curry said. "Just try and go out and build on the lead. Unfortunately we couldn't do that, but the good thing is we got a win and we'll take it.''

Philadelphia cut the lead to 70-60 midway through the third quarter, but Richardson nailed a 3-pointer and Jamal Crawford added a bucket to push the lead back to 15. The Knicks led 80-64 entering the fourth, then got another three from Richardson to open the period. Philadelphia never threatened again.

Notes: The Knicks held a moment of silence before the game for Jim Karvellas, their former broadcaster who died last week of cancer. ... New York is still without guard Steve Francis, who is working out in Houston while rehabilitating his right knee. The New York Post reported that Francis and the Knicks are discussing a buyout, but Francis' agent, Jeff Fried, said there have been "no discussions whatsoever'' about that. ... Andre Miller heard some boos during introductions. Sent to Philadelphia in the Iverson trade, he was in the game when the brawl with the Nuggets started, but wasn't suspended.

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