Knicks 101, Hornets 97
The two reserves each scored 11 fourth-quarter points as the Knicks overcame a 10-point deficit in the final period for a 101-97 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.
New York coach Lenny Wilkens limited starter Stephon Marbury to 12 minutes, saying he wanted the star guard rested for the playoffs. So Norris, who has averaged under 12 minutes of playing time and 3.9 points since joining the Knicks from Houston, ended up playing 40 minutes.
Norris has never been on a playoff team before and played as if he was looking to earn more time in the short rotation coaches tend to use in the postseason. He finished with a team-high 21 points on a variety of driving runners and spot-up jumpers. His 3-pointer with 3:12 left gave New York a 93-92 lead, the first time the Knicks had led since early in the second quarter.
“I am just excited about making the playoffs … I don’t care who we play,” Norris said. “These last couple of games it’s important for us to just play our best, work on some things, tweak some things.”
Sweetney finished with 16 points as the Knicks (39-42) got 61 points from their to give themselves a chance to catch New Orleans (40-41) for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, who went 1-3 against the Nets, need a victory over Cleveland on Wednesday and a loss by New Orleans against Washington.
Sweetney and Kurt Thomas each had nine rebounds for New York, which outrebounded New Orleans 45-37. New York shot 50 percent (7-of-14) from 3-point range.
New Orleans squandered any hopes it had for climbing up to the fourth seed and gaining home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
The Hornets came in on a two-game winning streak and were energized early by the return of Baron Davis, who had missed nine games with a left ankle sprain. He finished with 14 points but missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t expect to play down the stretch,” Davis said. “I was just using this game like a practice … I thought I’d play a few minutes at the beginning of each quarter.”
Davis said the loss rendered the Hornets’ final game at Washington meaningless because the Hornets now had no shot at home advantage. He said the remaining seedings were irrelevant.
“It don’t matter who we play,” Davis said. “We can beat anybody … The playoffs is the playoffs … The harder the better.”
New York stormed back to take the lead by opening the fourth period with a 16-6 run. Sweetney led the charge by hitting his first four shots of the quarter. He finished 7-of-9 from the field.
“The guys off the bench played terrific again. I love the way our guys stepped up because we made them bring their (starters) back in the game” in the fourth quarter, Wilkens said. “Moochie made big plays, got us into offense … He kept people involved and that’s what you want a point guard to do. And he hit some big shots.”
David Wesley led New Orleans with 23, but was held to six points in the second half. His 3-pointer with 21.7 seconds to go got the Hornets as close as 97-96, but Johnson hit a pair of free throws for New York, then Wesley missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game.
Jamaal Magloire had 21 points and 10 rebounds but was held scoreless in the final period.
P.J. Brown had 10 points and nine rebounds, and his free throws gave New Orleans an 81-71 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“It’s a game you can’t lose,” said Brown, who sat alone in his locker staring disgustedly at the floor long after fielding questions from reporters. “We just relaxed and there was no reason to relax until the clock expired. This game kind of sums up our season.”
Wesley’s shot was falling early. He hit six of his first seven shots, including two 3-pointers. The second was part of a 15-1 run that also included six points by Davis as the Hornets took a 40-30 lead in the second quarter.
New Orleans led by as much as 45-33 after David West’s free throw.
New York pulled back to 50-47 after Tim Thomas, who had 11 first-half points, hit a 3 and a pair of free throws during a 14-5 run.
Shammond Williams, who finished with 10 assists but was kept on the bench in the final period, set up dunks by Magloire and Brown in the final minute of thesecond period as the Hornets took a 54-47 lead into halftime.
New York won two of three against New Orleans this season, meaning it has the tiebreaker if the teams finish tied. … The announced crowd of 17,619 marked the fifth sellout of the season for New Orleans, which has finished its regular season home schedule. New Orleans’ average home attendance this season was 14,332. … Wesley, hampered through the second half of the season with a sprained big left toe, had his first scoring output of 20 or more since Jan. 7 against Washington. … Norris is the 11th member of the Knicks to score 20this season.