Houston had 29 points and seven assists as the Knicks kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 99-95 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
Sprewell added 21 points and nine rebounds, and the Knicks led by as many as 16 points, but had to hold off Atlanta’s late charge to stay in the playoff chase. New York must win its next four games and Milwaukee must lose its final five for the Knicks to qualify. Milwaukee hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
“Our motivation is just finishing the season as strong as possible,” Sprewell said. “Our chances are slim, but we’re going to keep fighting. We feel like we’re definitely a playoff team.”
With Terry guarding him, though, Houston dribbled twice and swished a jumper, and Sprewell hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:06 to lift the Knicks.
“When the odds are against you, you really don’t have a lot to lose,” Houston said. “There’s a lot more interest in the game, but that’s not what we really focused on at this point. We have a job to do, we have certain things that we’re trying to get accomplished when we’re out there, and that’s what you focus on.”
Down 14 to start the fourth quarter, the Hawks cut the deficit to five twice and were down 96-92 with 33.6 seconds left.
Atlanta, which had won two straight, committed 18 turnovers, though, and missed several opportunities to overtake a lackadaisical New York team in the fourth, including a pair of missed open layups by Dion Glover.
“They made two shots in the last two minutes to turn the game around,” Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said. “We only had six turnovers in the second half, but they seemed timely.”
The Knicks had six of their 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter, and dropped the intensity that had dominated the Hawks in the first half until their guards came to the rescue.
“Hey, we’re still in it until we are mathematically eliminated,” Kurt Thomas said. “If we can just get a little help. … We’re still in thehunt.”
New York placed F Othella Harrington on the injured list with plantar fasciitis of the right foot and activated G Lavor Postell. Harrington, who averaged 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds and started 64 of 74 games, will be out for the rest of the season. … Hawks F Glenn Robinson did not start because of inflammation in his left Achilles’, but saw significant time after Ira Newble got into foul trouble. … New York head coach Don Chaney said no matter what the Knicks playoff hopes were, he wouldn’t sit his starters in favor of his younger players. “The No. 1 goal is still to win,” Chaney said. “I’ll use them only if we’re beating a team.” … Stotts had similar thoughts about his team. “We’re out of the playoffs and we’re playing hard,” Stotts said. …New York took the season series with Atlanta, three games to one.