New York 116, Phoenix 115

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PHOENIX (TICKER) Stephon Marbury tied a season high with 43 points, but it was not enough for the Phoenix Suns.

Marbury missed an eight-foot runner at the buzzer as the New York Knicks held on for a 116-115 victory over the Suns in the opener of a crucial six-game road trip.

The Knicks nearly squandered a 105-95 lead in the final seven minutes and Kurt Thomas gave Phoenix a chance by missing a pair from the line with 7.4 seconds remaining.

But Marbury could not come through on the final possession, saddling the Suns with consecutive home losses for the first time this season.

“Without a doubt, I was happy when Stephon missed that shot at the end,” Thomas said. “I didn’t hit the free throws, left one short and left one long, and I was very disappointed about that.”

“Those guys (Knicks) were right there,” Marbury added. “They shot the ball unbelievably. Allan (Houston) hit some big shots down the stretch. It was just a great basketball game all the way around. Somebody had to lose.”

New York will be glad it does not have to see Marbury again this season as the Brooklyn native averaged 37 points in the two games against the Knicks.

“We had led by more than 10 twice in the second half and he battled back and kept them in the game,” Thomas said.

New York had seven players in double figures, led by Houston with 26 points and Thomas with 24.

“This was probably our best game offensively, but we can’t rely on offense to win us games,” New York forward Latrell Sprewell said. “We need to play better on defense. We were able to keep up with their fast pace on offense, but we still have to do a better job on defending the basket and not letting teams put that many points up on us.”

Phoenix closed to 110-109 on Marbury’s jumper with 2:41 left before baskets by Houston and Thomas gave the Knicks a five-point cushion with 1:43 to play.

A pair of foul shots and a jumper by Marbury pulled the Suns within 114-113 with 29 seconds remaining. After Houston’s driving layup, Shawn Marion converted a pair from the line to again pull Phoenix within a point with 8.7 seconds to go.

Phoenix’s “Big Three” combined for 94 points as Marion scored 26 and rookie Amare Stoudamire collected 25 and 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double.

“I definitely have to say that was an enjoyable game,” Phoenix coach Frank Johnson said. “It wasn’t th ending we wanted. You would think when you shoot 53 percent, 80 percent from the line, and you get to the line 41 times, score 115 points, you would get a win.”

New York stayed close in the first half despite some uncanny shooting by the Suns, who shot 78.9 percent in the first quarter and 72.7 percent in the first half.

Marury and Marion were reach 5-of-5 from the field in the opening quarter, when the Suns made 15-of-19 shots. But they only led, 37-32, after the opening 12 minutes and 67-63, at the intermission.

“They are a great shooting team and you cannot let them have space,” Chaney said. “If you give them shooting space, they will come down the court and kill you every time.”

New York took control in the third period, using a 15-2 spurt to turn a five-point deficit into an 84-79 lead.

The difference in the game was the teams’ performance from beyond the arc. The Knicks converted 13-of-30 3-pointers while the Suns were just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

“In the second half, we came out and played defense the way we’re supposed to play,” Sprewell said. “I think we held them to 36 percent, which was much better.”

Sprewell scored 17 points, while Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon and Charlie Ward each contributed 11 for New York, which shot 43 percent.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New York
K. Thomas K. Thomas
9-15,  24 Pts
10 Rebs, 2 Assists
 Phoenix
S. Marbury S. Marbury
15-27,  43 Pts
3 Rebs, 9 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists