But on Friday night, Bowen’s offense was a necessity.
Bowen scored 15 points to help the Spurs pull out a 97-93 victory over New York, handing the Knicks their sixth straight loss.
“He played great down the stretch,” said Knicks forward Malik Rose, a former Spur. “You know Bruce is going to attack any tough matchup on defense. He made some big shots, as usual, and he really played well.”
Bowen was in part making up for teammates Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, who averaged a combined 38.7 points a game before Friday. Against New York, they shot 10-of-29 from the field and scored 12 points apiece.
New York was without Zach Randolph, who was suspended for one game for throwing his headband at a referee this week. Rose started in his spot, scoring six points.
“We competed from the start. We played hard,” said Crawford, who sprained his left shoulder late in the third quarter. “We had several chances down the stretch. That’s all you can ask—a chance to win.”
X-rays on Crawford’s shoulder were negative, the Knicks said.
Despite being without one of their usual starters, the Knicks made a game of it late.
Trailing since 4:40 was left in the second quarter but inching within five to start the final 12 minutes, New York cut San Antonio’s lead to 90-89 with 3:02 to play following David Lee’s jumper.
After Parker missed one of two free throws for San Antonio, Lee had a chance to tie the game 59 seconds later but missed. Finley’s crucial 3-pointer from the corner with 1:43 left put the Spurs back up by five.
“That’s why they’re the champs,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said of Finley’s shot. “You were hoping for a miss, but that was all net.”
Robinson’s two free throws, followed by a basket with 50 seconds to go, brought New York within one yet again. After each team committed a turnover, Robinson fouled Bowen, who hit both foul shots to make it 96-93 with 10.2 on the clock.
With about 5 seconds left, Crawford missed a jumper and Lee’s tip-in attempt failed. Bowen grabbed the rebound and scrambled around, trying to let the clock expire, but Robinson got to him for a foul. Bowen went to the line with 0.2 on the clock and sank one of two to make it a two-possession game.
“It was great at the end there. The only way you can continue to improve your free throw shooting is by getting to the line,” Bowen said. “So it’s something I was definitely happy with as far as … getting the opportunity to feel comfortable there.”
Stephon Marbury scored 16 points for New York and Lee grabbed 12 rebounds.
“We have to play harder and smarter, particularly to beat the world champs in their building,” Thomas said. “You need to play with great intelligence. I thought we played with great effort but our intelligence needs to catch up with our effort.”
Thomas, who earlier this week talked about the struggling Knicks winning a championship someday while under his charge, added that he “thought we took a step forward today. In all honesty.”
The game was close early and was tied four times in the second quarter before San Antonio pulled away with an 11-4 run over the last 4:40 of the half to go up 51-44 at the break. DerMarr Johnson’s 3 to start the Spurs’ burst was the go-ahead basket for San Antonio, putting them up 43-40.
The Spurs led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but Crawford scored nine straight points for the Knicks, starting with a 3-pointer, that brought them to 72-66 with 1:22 remaining. Robinson’s 3 with 4.4 left made it 76-71 heading into the fourth. Crawford had 14 points in the third quarter.
Rose received plenty of applause from the crowd when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup. Rose played for San Antonio for all or part of eight seasons, most recently in 2004-05, before being traded to New York in February 2005. … Marbury was back for the second game in a row after missing most of the past month following the death of his father. … Spurs guards Brent Barry (torn muscle, left calf) and Manu Ginobili (sprained left index finger) were still out. … The Spurs, the league’s No. 3 3-point shooters, were 11-of-22 (50 percent) from beyond the arc. The Knicks, the league’s No. 29 3-point shooters, were 6-of-15 (40 percent). … Duncan did not score in the fourth quarter and went 0-of-5 from the field. … New York’s bench was outscored 36-20.