NEW YORK (AP)—Knicks coach Herb Williams kept Stephon Marbury on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, a strategy so successful that Williams said he might use it “often” after the All-Star break.
Jamal Crawford scored 23 points to lead six Knicks in double figures, and New York pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 108-90 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Marbury was on the bench as the Knicks began the final period with an 80-76 lead, and he stayed there for the rest of the game as Crawford directed the offense and Michael Sweetney and Jerome Williams controlled the inside.
“Any time you have a group of guys that are playing well, you just have to go with them,” Williams said. “That can happen any time and often, because if guys are playing well—regardless of who’s on the floor—you leave that group alone and let them play.”
It was a different mix for the Knicks as they won for just the fifth time in their past 24 games, their marquee star in the unfamiliar position of playing cheerleader down the stretch.
“I think he was smiling,” Williams said. “I saw a couple times he jumped up and was cheering. He was just happy to get a win.
Marbury finished with 14 points and nine assists in 31 minutes as the Knicks had their first double-digit victory margin since Dec. 29 against Minnesota.
The key stretch came early in the fourth quarter as the Bucks missed five shots and committed three turnovers to allow the Knicks to turn an 80-76 lead into an 87-76 bulge.
Milwaukee pulled to 89-81 on Mike James’ 3-pointer, but that was as close as the Bucks would come against a Knicks lineup that included Crawford and Penny Hardaway at the guard positions and Jerome Williams, Sweetney and Kurt Thomas along the front line.
Marbury said he could not remember the last time he sat out an entire fourth quarter.
“I was happy to be able to sit over there because one, we were winning, and two, to get some rest,” Marbury said. “I’m going to ride with my teammates. I don’t want to cause (any) controversy.”
In a matchup of last-place teams, neither held a double-digit lead until Crawford made a 3-pointer with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter to put New York ahead 87-76. Sweetney scored four of the Knicks’ next six points, and Williams then scored six straight to put the Knicks ahead 100-87 with 3:48 left.
Thomas added 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, Sweetney scored 18— one shy of his career high—and Hardaway had 14. The Knicks shot 56 percent from the field.
“They shot the ball well, but most of it was what we didn’t do,” Mason said. “We didn’t finish the game out.”
Marbury had one of the niftiest passes of his career when he spun 360 degrees and hit Tim Thomas under the basket with a lookaway pass early in the third quarter. … Redd missed his third straight game. Before that, he had played in 212 consecutive games. … Knicks C Bruno Sundov was not with the team for personal reasons. … Many Knicks fans found another reason to boo Tim Thomas. During a timeout, a video was played in which Thomas was asked if he preferred the Yankees or Mets. He answered “Mets,” and a majority of the crowd vented its disapproval.