Hornets 106, Knicks 98

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NEW ORLEANS (AP)—The New Orleans Hornets can be thankful that Baron Davis is an All-Star with a conscience.

Playing with a sore left ankle, Davis had 29 points and a career-high six steals Wednesday night, leading New Orleans to a 106-98 victory over the New York Knicks.

Davis, who plans to play in Sunday’s All-Star game back home in Los Angeles, did not practice this week. The Hornets let Davis make a game-time decision on whether to play.

“I didn’t want to not play tonight and then play Sunday,” Davis said. “I didn’t want people saying I let my teammates down. I just felt I needed to give it a go.”

Davis showed little sign of soreness from the Jan. 19 ankle sprain that has caused him to miss six of 11 games. He converted drives through traffic and even dunked over Dikembe Mutombo.

“I told myself, even though my ankle’s hurt, I’m going to push myself,” Davis said. “In games before that I never pushed myself over the hurting point, past the limit, and tonight I did.”

Darrell Armstrong scored all nine of his points on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Jamal Mashburn scored 19 for New Orleans, which had lost five of six.

Stephon Marbury led New York with 29 points and 10 assists. Penny Hardaway came off the bench to score 19 for the Knicks, who were playing their second road game in two nights. They head into the All-Star break on a two-game losing skid.

The Knicks had won five straight before the losses. Coach Lenny Wilkens did not fault his team’s effort, but rather poor communication and 20 turnovers.

“The last two games were opportunities lost for us,” Wilkens said. “We have been playing aggressive defense and we believe in each other. We have to execute better and take care of the ball.”

New Orleans’ recent struggles had taken an emotional toll, and coaches and players yelled at each other after a loss Saturday night in Milwaukee.

After practice Tuesday, assistant coach Kenny Gattison huddled the team and told them they were not playing with pride and needed to trust the coaching staff.

The Hornets came through with a balanced, sustained attack that produced 49 percent shooting from the floor. Jamaal Magloire had 13 points and 11 rebounds, while P.J. Brown scored 12 points.

Brown credited the venting by coaches and players for the improved effort.

“That was definitely a part of it. Everybody really wanted to win tonight because we haven’t really been playing that well lately,” he said. “Hopefully, we can use this to springboard us back to being the team we know we can be.”

Davis hit a pair of 3s and Brown put back a shot that Davis missed as the Hornets opened the third period with a 20-2 run to take the lead for good at 69-56.

Brown had eight points in the quarter and the Hornets shot 12-of-18 from the floor. Davis converted a stuttering, slashing drive all the way from halfcourt in the final seconds of the quarter to give New Orleans an 83-73 lead.

The Knicks shot 7-of-20 in the third and Marbury, after scoring 16 in the first half, was held to four free throws in the period. Hardaway kept the Knicks in the game, hitting four of six shots in the quarter, including a 3-pointer.

“They turned up their intensity and we didn’t match it,” said Keith Van Horn, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds. “They came out at halftime with a greater sense of urgency. We let them be the aggressor.”

New York shot better in the fourth, during which Marbury and Van Horn each scored nine points, but Armstrong’s timely 3s kept the Knicks from getting too close.

“When the game’s on the line, you just got to focus in and knock them down,” Armstrong said. “These are shots I know I can make. That’s why I just kept shooting.”

Davis and Marbury went at each other hard from the outset, with Davis hitting a pair of 3-pointers and converting a steal from Marbury into a breakaway layup as Marbury fouled him.

Marbury also had 13 points in the period and gave New York its first lead, 27-25, when he pulled up on the dribble just before the first-quarter buzzer and swished a rainbow 3-pointer from 30 feet.

Hardaway hit a pair of 3-pointers to help New York build a lead as large as nine, at 44-35. George Lynch hit two 3s for the Hornets in the final fiveminutes of the second period, and New Orleans trailed 54-49 at halftime.

Notes

Knicks F Kurt Thomas sat out, serving a one-game suspension for head-butting Mavericks forward Josh Howard during New York’s 105-90 loss at Dallas on Tuesday night. … Davis, now in his fifth season, surpassed 5,000 career points on his dunk over Mutombo with 9:36 to go in the second quarter. … After the All-Star break, the Knicks expect Allan Houston back from a leftknee injury.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New York
S. Marbury S. Marbury
10-22,  29 Pts
3 Rebs, 10 Assists
 New Orleans
B. Davis B. Davis
11-24,  29 Pts
8 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists