Williams had four of his career-high nine assists in a 15-0 third-quarter run that gave New York the lead for good in a 103-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
“That’s probably the quickest I’ve ever taken a guy out, but we needed the win,” Chaney said.
The victory was just the third in 11 games for the Knicks (10-18), whose coach is reportedly in danger of being fired if the team continues to languish amid the lower half of the woeful Atlantic Division.
Chaney gave an impassioned defense of himself in a pre-game meeting with reporters, saying he doesn’t want or need any reassurances from management.
“When I woke up this morning I didn’t care one way or another what my situation was because I could be fired at any time, or I could stay on,” Chaney said after improving his Knicks coaching record to 67-106. “I thought they came out and competed, and that’s all I ask of them. The reason why? I don’t know.”
Keith Van Horn scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and Allan Houston also had 20 for New York. Williams contributed nine assists, all but two coming in the second half when he played the majority of the minutes at point guard.
Chaney turned to Williams just 2:46 into the second half after Eisley had a shot blocked by Jason Terry and then lost the ball out of bounds.
“You never know who he’s going to play any night,” Williams said. “When your number’s called you have to go out there and perform, and I think I did a pretty good job tonight.”
Eisley, who took over the starting point guard job from Charlie Ward in the eighth game of the season, did not return.
“It’s tough. As a player, you always want to be on the floor, you always want to contribute,” Eisley said. “But at the same time, you have to look at the big picture and know what’s best for the team.”
A 19-footer by Houston began the 15-0 run that turned a 61-54 deficit into a 69-61 lead. Williams capped the rally with a pair of free throws.
The Hawks pulled within six midway through the fourth quarter before Van Horn hit three consecutive 3-pointers for a personal 9-0 run that gave the Knicks a 93-78 lead.
“I’ve never seen him that assertive in wanting the ball. I’d like to see that all of the time,” Chaney said.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 20 points to lead the Hawks, who lost their seventhstraight overall and their eighth consecutive road game.
Antonio McDyess had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 37 minutes. … Williams scored 10 points. … Travis Hansen started in place of Dion Glover (flu). … Houston has made 37 consecutive free throws. … Atlanta hasn’t won at Madison Square Garden since March 22, 1999—a span of eightgames.