NEW YORK (AP)—Too late to save their season, and probably too late to save Isiah Thomas’ job, the New York Knicks are playing their best basketball.
Fred Jones made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:47 left and scored 15 points, and the Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 109-107 on Wednesday night to match a season high with their third straight victory.
New York, which beat playoff-bound Orlando and Detroit in its previous two games, is assured of avoiding the first 60-loss season in franchise history.
“Finally the spirit of the team is good. The camaraderie of the team is good,” Thomas said. “I just think that they’re a team now.”
Thomas then rose from the podium at his postgame press conference before adding: “A little late, but nonetheless.”
New president Donnie Walsh attended his first game, seated a few rows back from center court with MSG Sports president Steve Mills. Walsh, who was hired last Wednesday to take one of Thomas’ jobs, said before the game he still hasn’t met with Thomas to discuss the coach’s future with the team.
Walsh insists he hasn’t decided if Thomas will stay, but wants to know why things went so poorly this season when they do have their discussion.
“When you come in this league you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Jones said. “We just had a bad year and it can happen to anyone, look at the Miami Heat coming off a championship. It could happen, unfortunately it happened on his watch and on our watch and we just try to get better from it.”
Jamal Crawford scored 18 points for the Knicks, who seemed in control after an 18-0 spurt in the second quarter, but blew all their lead before pulling back ahead to win three straight for only the second time this season, having also done it from Jan. 13-16.
“We want to play as well as we can every night,” Jones said. “Of course it’s too late to make the playoffs, but it’s not too late for us to play well.”
Jason Richardson scored 25 points, and Raymond Felton and Emeka Okafor had 24 apiece for the Bobcats, whose franchise-record four-game road winning streak was snapped. Okafor missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have tied it.
“I was proud of the guys, the way they fought and continued to play the game all the way to the end,” Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said.
The game was tied at 40 midway through the second quarter before Jones drilled consecutive 3-pointers to ignite an 18-0 spurt. Chandler’s two free throws made it 58-40 with 2:48 remaining in the half, and New York led 64-50 at the break.
Richardson scored 11 points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left that cut it to 86-83 entering the final 12 minutes. His follow shot gave the Bobcats their last lead with 4 minutes to go, but Robinson followed Jones’ 3 with a layup to make it 105-102, and New York led the rest of the way.
“We did a good job coming back into the game, but it’s a tired, long season,” Richardson said. “We didn’t come out well in the first quarter. I think we burnt a lot of energy in the second half trying to play catch-up.”
The Knicks also scored 18 straight points against Memphis on March 21 and Charlotte on Feb. 27. … New York swept a back-to-back for only the second time all season.