The Knicks won five of six before dropping two straight, including Tuesday’s 98-96 loss to the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden.
The loss was a frustrating one for New York, which gave one of its better all-around efforts of the season. The Knicks blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost as Dwyane Wade hit a fadeaway 22-footer at the final buzzer for Miami.
The Knicks are four games behind Orlando and Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 20 left to play.
Thomas has stepped up his game over the last two weeks to finally give New York the kind of production they expected when they acquired him from Milwaukee last season in exchange for Keith Van Horn. Thomas is averaging 19.4 points over the last eight games to lift his season average to 11.7.
The Knicks have searched most of the season for a consistent third scorer behind Marbury and Crawford to make up for the absence of Allan Houston in the lineup. Houston has missed 24 consecutive games due to left knee soreness but still expects to return sometime this season.
“To sum it up, there’s definitely a little more strength, but there are a lot of things we’re targeting that are away from my knees that are addressing the cause of the problem,” Houston said, explaining there is misalignment in other parts of his body. “It’s not really about the knee, it’s about everything.”
Houston has played in just 20 games this season, averaging a career-low 11.9 points on 41.5-percent shooting. The former All-Star has averaged 17.3 points for his career.
Atlanta’s woes stem from more than just injuries. The beleaguered Hawks have lost 15 of their last 16 games to give them the league’s worst record.
Tony Delk added a team-high 16 points for the Hawks, who have lost five straight at home.