NEW YORK (AP)—The large contingent of flag-waving, chanting Spaniards who roared for Juan Carlos Navarro gave this the feel of an Olympic game.
More importantly for the Memphis Grizzlies, it seemed more like a home game than a road one.
Maybe that’s why they won.
“It felt like a home game, as much as they were cheering for him,” Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay said of Navarro. “He’s the mayor out here.”
Gay added 24 points for the Grizzlies, who stormed to a 19-point halftime lead, blew it all before the end of the third quarter, then pulled away again for their first win outside Memphis since beating Indiana on Jan. 2. Miller was scoreless in the third quarter, then had 10 in the fourth to help the Grizzlies improve to 4-18 since trading Pau Gasol and end a stretch of 79 days between road victories.
“It’s good to get the monkey off our back,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “Obviously it was a problem with our self confidence on the road. Guys came out to play. We had a bad third quarter again, but this time guys righted the ship.”
Navarro finished with 17 points, leaving to a loud ovation in the final minutes as Miller held the rookie’s arm up in the air.
“I was happy to see that for Juan because he came a long ways over here and then Pau left and he’s all by himself,” Miller said. “Came from Spain to help us win games, and to see his fans come out here like this when we came to New York, I’m just happy to see him get a win and happy to see him play well.”
Jamal Crawford, the only member of New York’s preferred starting lineup who played, scored 22 points. Nate Robinson had 18 and rookie Wilson Chandler 17 for the Knicks (19-49), who have lost three straight, 10 of 11, and matched their loss total from all of last season.
Though speculation and common sense make it hard to believe he’s part of it, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is thinking of the team’s future, so he benched Zach Randolph so he could start Randolph Morris along with Chandler. Thomas said he plans to do the same thing Saturday at Minnesota—another team the Knicks are competing with for better draft position.
“This is definitely a growing and a learning experience for me and this is a very tough time,” said Thomas, who spent most of the week answering questions about the Knicks’ potential desire to replace him as president. “But you try to grow and learn from the tough times also.”
Miller opened and Navarro closed a 14-0 spurt with 3-pointers late in the second quarter as Memphis turned a two-point game into a 58-42 lead. Miller nailed three more 3-pointers before the break as the Grizzlies took a 69-50 lead after their highest-scoring first half of the season.
The Grizzlies seemed to get a boost from the group among the sellout crowd of 19,763 who chanted “Carlos!” after some jumpers by Navarro, who helped Spain win the 2006 world championship. Fans even started doing the wave during a timeout late in the first half.
“I know that in New York there’s a lot of Spanish people,” Navarro said. “It was like my first time in the Garden. I’m really, really excited. It gave me energy. I’m really happy to bring these people this game.”
The Knicks returned from the locker room and scored the first 18 points. New York eventually tied it at 90 on Mardy Collins’ steal and dunk with 33 seconds left, but Kyle Lowry made two free throws 20 seconds later to send Memphis to the final period with a two-point lead.
Hakim Warrick and Miller converted consecutive three-point plays in the fourth as Memphis pushed the lead back up to 19. Warrick had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Randolph, Quentin Richardson and Malik Rose joined in from the Knicks’ bench during the wave during a timeout with 2:37 left in the first half. … The Grizzlies’ longest road skid was 30 games from Feb. 19-Dec. 6, 1999. … The Knicks are 0-8 against the Southwest Division, with games left at Memphis and New Orleans. … The Knicks have lost six straight home games for the first time since 1986.