Knicks 96, Hawks 84

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NEW YORK (AP)—Nazr Mohammed does not hold a grudge against the Atlanta Hawks—even though it might have looked that way Monday night.

Mohammed had 18 points and 13 rebounds in his first game against his former team, and the New York Knicks pulled away early in the fourth quarter to defeat the Hawks 96-84.

“I don’t really think I sent a message,” Mohammed said. “They knew what I could do.”

Mohammed, dealt to the Knicks last month in a three-team trade also involving Tim Thomas and Keith Van Horn, played as though he had something to prove against the team he spent nearly three years with. He shot 7-for-11 in just 24 minutes.

He took six of the Knicks’ first seven shots and had eight points, five rebounds and two steals before picking up his second foul eight minutes into the first quarter, then had 10 points and five rebounds in the third quarter.

“Actually, I was probably too motivated just because I got so tired so quickly,” Mohammed said. “I don’t think I played as well as I probably should have tonight.”

Another ex-Hawk, DerMarr Johnson, hit a 3-pointer to end the third quarter that gave the Knicks a 75-68 lead, then knocked in another 3 as part of a 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter that turned the game into a blowout.

Penny Hardaway added 14 points and Stephon Marbury had 11 points and 11 assists for the Knicks, who swept the season series from the Hawks for the first time since 1974-75.

Johnson had 14 points, one of his best performances in 11 games since signing with New York as a free agent.

The difference maker, however, was Mohammed, who spent most of his time in Atlanta as the backup to Theo Ratliff.

Mohammed spent so much time on the bench, in fact, that he remarked upon his arrival in New York that he had six years’ of experience and just two years of wear and tear.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for that organization,” Mohammed said. “(general manager) Billy Knight was straight up with me all year, he told me if they could put me in a good spot he’d definitely look at it.

“All year long he told me this team (the Knicks) was calling about you, and we were talking. He was great with me all year.”

Stephen Jackson had 20 points for the Hawks, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

The Knicks overcame the absence of two starters as Allan Houston (bruised quadriceps) and Tim Thomas (strained groin) sat out. Also, Hardaway strained a groin muscle late in the game.

Atlanta led 29-25 after the first quarter, but the Hawks shot just 4-for-17 in the second quarter and trailed 50-44 at halftime.

Johnson and Hardaway opened the fourth quarter with 3s for an 81-68 lead, and Vin Baker converted a three-point play— drawing center Jason Collier’s sixth foul—for an 87-72 lead with 7:18 left. That allowed Mohammed to watch from the bench as his new team finished off his old one.

“He’s that extra inside presence they need, that extra big banger,” Atlanta’s Jason Terry said. “They’ve got Kurt Thomas, who can bang and shoot jumpers. Now you put in Nazr Mohammed, who can rebound and bang inside, andyou’ve got a good combination.”

Notes

Thomas was injured Saturday at Chicago. … Houston missed his third consecutive game. Shandon Anderson started in his place and had just three points. … Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens changed his story concerning what happened at the end of New York’s loss at Chicago on Saturday night, saying he did not tell the team to foul intentionally when the Bulls got the ball while ahead by two points with 28 seconds left. After that game, Wilkens said he told the team to foul but they didn’t hear him. … Travis Hansen had a career-high10 points for the Hawks.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Atlanta
C. Crawford C. Crawford
5-12,  18 Pts
6 Rebs, 3 Assists
 New York
N. Mohammed N. Mohammed
7-11,  18 Pts
13 Rebs, 0 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists