The Knicks hope to ride their star point guard to another win as they meet the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
Marbury is averaging 37.3 points over the last three games while shooting 54.7 percent from the field, including 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) from 3-point range. He led the Knicks (28-34) to wins over Golden State and Atlanta to open this month before scoring 40 points—one off his season high—in a 100-99 loss to Seattle on Tuesday.
“This is the basketball that Stephon is capable of playing,” teammate Steve Francis said. “That is what got him in this league. Our job is to give him a hand and score.”
However, it was Marbury’s missed free throw with 0.9 seconds left that prevented New York from forcing overtime Tuesday after it had trailed by 18 points.
As a team, the Knicks went 24-for-38 (64.2 percent) at the foul line, falling to 1-9 when they shoot under 65 percent. They are among the worst free-throw shooting teams in the league at 72.6 percent, but no team has attempted more (1,860).
“We do a good job of getting there (the free-throw line). We just don’t do a good job of converting,” coach Isiah Thomas said. “That is a big growing step that we have to take. Hopefully we can take it over these next 20 or so games.
“If we do make the playoffs, that is what playoff basketball is about. It is not about the jump shot and all that. It is about getting to the foul line. The team that gets to the foul line wins.”
The Knicks are 8-6 since the start of February after entering that month eight games under .500. They are part of a four-team mix that is within two games of each other for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards (34-26) are near the top of that playoff race, leading the Southeast Division and ranking third in the East.
Washington had its three-game winning streak snapped in a 100-97 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday. Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 28 points and Antawn Jamison added 22 in his fourth game back since missing 12 with a knee injury. Caron Butler, also in his fourth game back from injury, had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Arenas, Jamison and Butler combined to shoot 50.9 percent from the field, but their teammates hit just 30 percent.
“I thought we played hard in spurts, but we didn’t play well,” coach Eddie Jordan said.
The Wizards will look to rebound at home, where they have won five of six to pull into a tie with Chicago for the best home record in the East at 24-8.
New York, meanwhile, had lost four in a row on the road before winning in Atlanta last week. The Knicks are 11-20 away from Madison Square Garden.
Washington has a 2-1 edge in the season series heading into Saturday’s finale. Butler’s wide-open dunk with 2.2 seconds left gave the Wizards a 99-98 win in the last meeting on Jan. 17.