NEW YORK (AP)—Moments after sparking a big comeback, Jamal Crawford went back onto the court and told the fans he was sorry about the previous game.
The Knicks had nothing to apologize for Friday.
Crawford made the go-ahead basket with 28 seconds left, and New York erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-88.
One night after they were accused of quitting during a 104-59 loss in Boston, the Knicks surged back in the fourth quarter to win for the third time in four games.
Crawford said his apology during a postgame interview wasn’t scripted, but felt it was something the fans needed to hear.
“That’s not who we are, honestly, and their support means everything,” he said. “So it was a tough loss and I’m glad we bounced back tonight.”
Crawford and Zach Randolph led New York with 25 points apiece. Fred Jones provided a huge spark by scoring all of his 10 in the fourth quarter in place of Stephon Marbury, who had 13 points but left midway through the third quarter with a right shoulder muscle spasm.
“Definitely don’t want to get into the game while someone else is injured,” Jones said. “But it was something I’ve been praying about and my prayers were answered to get on the floor, and it was pretty much up to me to make the rest happen.”
Michael Redd scored 27 points for the Bucks, but missed two late 3-point attempts in Milwaukee’s third straight loss.
“The ceiling fell in,” Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “They picked up some energy for sure. I thought Freddie Jones gave them a big lift and Jamal Crawford made some huge plays. We had a hard time stopping both of those guys in the midst of a momentum turn.”
New York had its third-worst loss and second-worst scoring performance of the shot-clock era in Thursday’s nationally televised debacle.
The pathetic performance renewed talk that the players had quit on Isiah Thomas—and speculation the coach’s job was in jeopardy. Thomas agreed it was an “ugly” game, but hoped the Knicks would quickly put it behind them.
The fans sure hadn’t. They started booing the Knicks before the game even started, and the “Fire Isiah!” cries returned late in the first half.
The cheers eventually came back. So did the Knicks.
“I thought our guys competed, and it was a tough game for us, particularly after losing the way we did last night and not sure emotionally how guys would feel,” Thomas said. “But they fought through it. We were down the whole game and they found a way to battle back and pick up their confidence and get their rhythm back.”
Trailing by 17 in the third quarter, the Knicks took an 87-85 lead on Quentin Richardson’s basket with 3:03 remaining in the fourth. Mo Williams answered with a 3-pointer, but neither team scored again until Crawford banked in a jumper while being fouled for an 89-88 edge.
Redd missed with a chance to regain the lead, and the Knicks got the ball ahead to Jones for a clinching dunk with 0.4 to play. Redd missed a hurried 3 off the inbounds at the buzzer.
“I’m speechless,” Redd said. “I’m more speechless about us losing three in a row, not that we lost to the Knicks. The Knicks are a talented team. We knew they would come back and fight hard. When you have a lead like that, you’ve got to be able to defend and put your foot down and take advantage of the situation, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
As usual, Thomas was loudly booed before the game. This time, the fans also booed for the introduction of the Knicks’ starters, but responded with a mock cheer when Eddy Curry won the opening tip.
It took the fans only 5 minutes for the jeers to come back after the Bucks raced to a 14-6 lead. Milwaukee shot 56.5 percent in the opening period, building a 29-19 advantage.
The lead quickly grew to 16, though the Knicks came right back to cut it to 37-32 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half. Milwaukee quickly regained control behind a few jumpers from Redd and led 55-44 at the break.
The Knicks were only within single digits once in the third quarter, and the Bucks extended their lead to 71-54 with 4:32 left in the period. A late flurry by Crawford got New York within 12 points headed to the fourth.
Redd passed Terry Cummings, who also played for the Knicks, for ninth place on Milwaukee’s career scoring list. … Marbury said he expected to play Sunday against Phoenix. … Nate Robinson, the Knicks’ leading scorer in Thursday’s loss, didn’t play Friday.