NEW YORK (AP)—Isiah Thomas rattled off a list of all the things Stephon Marbury did right.
Hard to believe it’s only two weeks since Thomas didn’t think his point guard was worthy of starting.
“I thought Marbury was great,” Thomas said. “His leadership throughout the game, during the course of the game, his decision-making, his defense, his shot-making ability. Just from start to finish he was great.
“Overall a good team effort, but No. 3 was really good tonight.”
Zach Randolph added 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford had 22 points for the Knicks, who have won two in a row following an eight-game losing streak. Randolph, who grabbed a huge offensive rebound in the final seconds, has eight double-doubles in the 10 games he has played this season.
“Right now we feel like we beat anybody,” Randolph said. “We got a lot of talent in here and guys have got to be ready to play. Like I said to the guys, when we compete we can play with anybody in this league. I really mean that.”
Carlos Boozer scored 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz had their three-game winning streak snapped. Deron Williams added 26 points and eight assists for Utah, which played Sunday in Detroit and seemed a step slow on defense, allowing the Knicks to shoot 53 percent from the field.
“I didn’t think our energy was as high as it should’ve been,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “Even though we played yesterday afternoon, that shouldn’t have been a problem at all. We didn’t seem to have tremendous energy to try and stop them.”
Marbury was still hearing pregame boos along with Thomas after ditching the team for a game in Phoenix when the coach told him of plans to remove him from the starting lineup. Marbury regained his starting spot last week, and on Monday he keyed one of the Knicks’ best offensive performances of the season.
Thomas stressed it was his disappointment in Marbury’s defense and leadership that led to the demotion, but Marbury has shown his offense is rounding into shape. He scored 19 points Saturday against Chicago, and followed that by going 9-of-14 and making all three 3-pointers Monday.
“When I have the ball more and I’m able to create and make plays, I can get into a nice flow,” Marbury said. “Coming into this year I was trying to pick up from last year from the end of the season, but that didn’t happen. But with time, everything might happen. The season is still young, it’s November. I’m not panicking at all. I’m not worried, I have no worries as far as how I’m going to play.”
The Knicks quickly extended a four-point halftime lead to double digits, and held a comfortable lead for most of the second half until Boozer powered a late comeback. With Utah trailing by 10, he had six points in an 11-3 spurt that cut it to 105-103 on Williams’ layup with 3:41 remaining.
But Randolph made two buckets, Marbury added another, and Williams had a couple of costly turnovers along with a shot blocked by Eddy Curry as the Knicks regrouped to push the lead to 111-104 with 1:19 to go.
One last surge by the Jazz cut the Knicks’ lead to two, but Randolph grabbed the offensive rebound after Crawford’s miss. Crawford followed with two free throws to make it 113-109 with 6.6 seconds left.
“Some teams got your number,” Williams said. “We’ve got to try and change that, but as of right now they’re better than us when we play them.”
Randolph scored 13 points and Marbury had nine, including New York’s first four-point play of the season, to help the Knicks take a 31-27 lead after one quarter. The lead was nine after Marbury’s three-point play with 3:49 left in the half, and New York took a 58-52 advantage into the locker room after Crawford’s 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds to go.
The Knicks beat the Jazz 97-96 in an overtime thriller last Dec. 18 in Utah’s last trip here. Williams’ jumper gave the Jazz a one-point lead with 3 seconds left, but David Lee found Marbury streaking up the left side with his inbounds pass, and Marbury made a layup as time expired. Sloan said he wouldn’t use that game as a way to motivate his team. “The motivation should have been that we should play the full game,” Sloan said before the game. “We made a shot to put us up one as I recall and then we kind of hesitated for a second. And the game’s not over.” … The Jazz were playing the second game in a tough stretch that has them on the road for 12 of their 16 games before Christmas.