Knicks 110, Clippers 104
NEW YORK (AP)—With 18 seconds left on the shot clock late in the second quarter, Stephon Marbury stopped and popped from 26 feet away—the type of shot selection that makes coaches cringe.
This launch, however, rolled perfectly off Marbury’s fingertips and arched high toward the rafters before coming down and swishing straight though.
That 3-pointer was just a hint of things to come Sunday night as Marbury put on a dazzling offensive display, scoring 15 of his season-high 42 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to lead the New York Knicks to their fifth straight win, 110-104 over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“What made it a good shot?” Marbury said, repeating a question. “I was in a nice rhythm, and my intent was just to stay in that groove and not get out of it.”
Marbury never lost his touch, eclipsing the season high of 40 he set earlier this season for Phoenix and shooting 15-for-20 overall—including 4-for-5 from 3-point range—to give New York its longest winning streak in nearly three years.
The Knicks moved within two games of .500, the mark they’ve been aiming for since the mid-December shakeup that brought in team president Isiah Thomas, and now have a two-game road trip to Dallas and New Orleans prior to the All-Star break.
Kurt Thomas added 28 points, making his first seven shots to give him 14 consecutive made field goals over two games, and finished 12-for-19 as New York improved to 9-3 under coach Lenny Wilkens.
“Reality is definitely starting to set in,” Marbury said. “Guys’ mind-set is to get to .500 and from there try to go above .500.”
Marbury’s outburst started inconspicuously with a pair of foul shots, quickly turning into something special.
A driving bank shot, a spin move on a one-on-two break that led to a three-point play, an 18-footer, a 17-footer coming off a pick that turned into another three-point play, a step-back 3. It all added up to 15 points in exactly four minutes, capping a 17-6 run and putting the Knicks ahead 97-85.
“Isiah’s been pretty much telling me I’ve got to start stepping on people’s necks when you’ve got them down, so that’s what I’ve been concentrating on,” he said.
Marbury added an 18-footer with 6:56 left for his final field goal, scoring his last two points from the line for a 110-102 lead with 10.1 seconds left.
“He’s like the Energizer Bunny. I don’t know if he ever gets tired,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “They’ve got as good of a two-man game right now as anyone in the league.”
Even before the stop-and-pop shot in the second quarter, there were signs that this would be Marbury’s night.
He had a 30-footer to end the first quarter, also a high-arcing, perfectly rotating swish that never hit anything but net. His long 3 in the second quarter with 18 seconds left on the shot clock gave New York a 54-42 lead.
Thomas missed a 7-footer from the baseline at the end of the first half to end a streak, leaving the Knicks ahead 58-51 at intermission behind 20 points from Marbury and 16 from Thomas.
New York stayed in for almost the entire third quarter, with Marbury missinga 40-footer at the buzzer to leave New York ahead 80-79 entering the fourth.
New York hadn’t won five in a row since March 11-20, 2001. … The Knicks record for consecutive shots without a miss is 19 by Johnny Newman in 1987-88. … Clippers F Elton Brand said he and Toronto F Vince Carter have not yet heard from USA Basketball officials regarding whether they will be chosen for the U.S. Olympic team. Both players were on the U.S. team that qualified last summer, but Brand and Carter were not guaranteed spots for Athens. … The Knicks have been in negotiations for a contract extension with Thomas, whose deal has an opt-out at the end of this season. … Asked who he has grown to like during his brief tenure, Wilkens singled out rookie F Michael Sweetney for praise. “He’s quicker than people realize, he’s tough as a bull and has a softtouch around the basket.” Despite the praise, Sweetney did not play.