Crawford scored 11 of his 24 points in the final five minutes, including a rare four-point play and a crossover move that led to a key basket in New York’s 94-93 victory over Utah on Sunday.
“I was kind of saving that one,” said Crawford, who had noticed throughout the game that Bell kept expecting him to drive left. “He thought I was going left, and I went right.”
Crawford was his usual erratic self, missing his first six shots before eventually finding his stroke. His running floater after beating Bell made it 90-86 with 27 seconds left, and Stephon Marbury’s two free throws with 6.4 remaining gave New York a four-point lead.
Marbury had 19 points and 12 assists, Michael Sweetney scored 13 and Kurt Thomas grabbed 14 of the Knicks’ 29 rebounds as New York won at home over the Jazz for the first time in more than eight years.
“I thought we tried harder,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “You can only feel sorry for yourself for so long, and then someday you’re either going to get up and fight or lay down in the corner in the fetal position for the rest of your career.”
Crawford led the Knicks in scoring for the 11th time this season and the fourth time in the last five games. He seems to have solidified his starting spot at shooting guard despite the recent return of Allan Houston, who coach Lenny Wilkens has said will eventually reclaim a spot in the starting five.
Crawford had been beating himself up over his shot selection toward the end of New York’s one-point loss to Detroit four nights earlier when he dribbled 20 seconds off the shot clock late in the fourth quarter before launching an off-balance 17-footer that missed. The Pistons grabbed the long rebound and scored, putting the only blemish on the Knicks’ record over the past five games.
Marbury telephoned Crawford later that night.
“I told him it was spilled milk and that there was nothing he could do about it now. He felt like he let the whole city down. That’s how much he loves New York,” Marbury said.
It was the memory of that jump shot that convinced Crawford to take the ball to the basket.
He had made a 3-pointer for a 79-79 tie with 4:36 left, then gave the Knicks an 83-81 lead on a four-point play with 3:50 left.
Bell’s 3-pointer made it 88-86 before Crawford found himself isolated against him on the perimeter. Switching the ball on the dribble from one side to the other, Crawford got Bell to commit one way and quickly darted the other for a running 12-footer that restored a four-point lead.
“The Detroit situation played in my head. I knew I wasn’t going to shoot a jumper. I was going to the hole,” Crawford said. “I’m glad I learned that in game 20 or 21 instead of the playoffs.”
Bell was miffed after the game when reporters repeatedly asked him about the crossover.
“I was out there trying to guard him, he made a good move and I lost him,” Bell said.
“I thought he played pretty well the other night. I thought he deserved a chance,” Sloan said of the 7-foot-3 center, whose defensive presence helped Utah trim a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit against Boston two nights earlier.
Okur, who signed a six-year, $50 million free agent contract with the Jazz over the summer, had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Radojevic had five points, four rebounds, four fouls, three turnovers and no field goals in 26 minutes. He began the game with just eight points all season in five games. … The Knicks’ last home win over the Jazz came on Dec. 17, 1996. … Utah has lost 10 of its last 12 overall. … The Knicks are two games over .500 for the first time since Dec. 8, 2001.