NEW YORK (AP)—So certain was Jamal Crawford that his 3-pointer would be good, he didn’t even bother to stick around and make sure.
Crawford was already backpedaling down court by the time his third 3-pointer of the third quarter dropped through, and his 31 points helped the New York Knicks defeat the Denver Nuggets 107-96 Sunday.
“Honestly, moments like that you kind of zone out. You feel like it’s summer and you’re shooting in your backyard,” said Crawford, who scored 17 points in the third quarter.
Stephon Marbury added 25 points as the Knicks’ starting backcourt combined for 50 points more than their Denver counterparts, and Marbury also had 11 assists to help New York win for the second time in six games and snap the Nuggets’ four-game winning streak.
“I mixed it up,” said Crawford, who was more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. “That’s a part of my game you guys haven’t seen.”
There are many facets to Crawford’s game that the folks in New York are still getting used to, and his positives subjugated his negatives on an afternoon when the old starting shooting guard, Allan Houston, played his first home game of the season.
Coach Lenny Wilkens has said Houston will eventually return to the starting lineup, though Crawford wasn’t so certain it would be in the backcourt.
Houston could move to small forward in place of the inconsistent Tim Thomas, although such a lineup would leave the Knicks with a size disadvantage against most opponents.
“Just because he starts doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Crawford said.
Denver, making the third stop of a seven-game, 11-day road trip, lost for only the second time in 10 games against Eastern Conference opponents.
Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, and ex-Knick Marcus Camby added a season-high 21 points and 14 rebounds. Starting guards Greg Buckner (four points) and Andre Miller (two points) shot a combined 3-for-10.
Miller and Anthony each had seven of Denver’s 22 turnovers.
Crawford was 11-for-19 from the field and Marbury was 10-for-18, while Houston scored nine points on 3-for-11 shooting in 17 minutes.
Kurt Thomas added 10 points and 18 rebounds for the Knicks, who made it through their first 20 games with a 10-10 record—exactly the benchmark team president Isiah Thomas set during training camp.
“They are way, way better than they were last year. Way better,” Anthony said.
The Knicks took the lead for good midway through the second quarter and found themselves with a 49-44 halftime advantage despite allowing the Nuggets a half-dozen dunks.
Crawford got the lead up to double digits by scoring 12 points in the first 5:20 of the third quarter, and he reached 15 when his third 3 of the period dropped through for a 70-56 lead.
Crawford said he had been too passive in the Knicks’ prior two games, and Marbury agreed.
“I told him to play with a chip on his shoulder. When he plays with that swagger, he’s unstoppable,” Marbury said.
The Knicks stayed comfortably ahead until Denver used an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter to pull to 88-82.
Marbury answered with a short jumper, Camby missed a layup and Crawford was fouled on a 3-point attempt with a second left on the shot clock. Crawford then drove around Rodney White for a hanging layup that turned into a three-point play to make it 95-84, and Denver never threatened the rest of the way.
Things stayed quiet between Tim Thomas and Kenyon Martin, who exchanged harsh words during last season’s Knicks-Nets playoff series when Thomas was knocked out of the series by a hard foul, then called Martin a “fugazy” (phony) tough guy and said he wanted to meet him in a boxing ring. Martin dunked over Thomas and blocked one of his shots, but there was nothing extracurricular. … Nuggets forward Nene bruised his right hip in the second quarter and did not return. He is questionable for Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia. … In a pre-game meeting with reporters, Isiah Thomas said he would not trade Houston. “I like him. I want to see our team have a chance to play with him.” Houston, who discussed the issue with Thomas, indicated he would not be surprised by a trade.