ORLANDO, Florida, Newsday
It was sheer madness, which usually means the New York Knicks are right where they want to be. They hadn’t led all game, they couldn’t stop Tracy McGrady, and the bounces kept falling into the hands of the precocious Orlando Magic. The Knicks even erased a Latrell Sprewell three-pointer by calling a timeout one second before. But when it came down to the final seconds, their defense showed up at the right time. Chris Childs hit a layup with 12.3 seconds to play after Erick Strickland stole a pass from Darrell Armstrong along the sideline, giving the Knicks an 85-84 win Tuesday night at TD Waterhouse Center in their wildest game of the season. The Magic had four chances to win in the final seconds, but Armstrong missed a runner in the lane and McGrady missed a follow as the ball tumbled out of bounds, last touched by the Knicks with 2.8 seconds left. McGrady took an inbounds pass from Bo Outlaw on the left wing and fired up an off-balance, 18-foot airball that went under the rim and landed in the hands of Magic forward Pat Garrity. With less than a second left, Garrity tried to muscle up the rebound, but he short-armed it just before the horn.
Coach Jeff Van Gundy raced off the court as if he had a plane to catch while his Knicks celebrated at midcourt, arms raised, with the crowd of 14,673 in disbelief. After the Magic rode McGrady for most of the night, his touches were limited in the fourth quarter. He had only two points in the final 12 minutes and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Neither Allan Houston (1-for-9, five points) nor Glen Rice (1-for-8, five points) got in a rhythm shooting, contributing to a woeful night offensively for the Knicks, but they outlasted the Magic with better defense and mental toughness down the stretch. The Knicks shot 38.5 percent from the field, the Magic 40.3. With Marcus Camby out with a sprained left ankle, Kurt Thomas had 22 points, a Knicks career high. Sprewell, whose layup with 18.1 seconds left made it 84-83, also had 22. With the Magic leading by eight, the Knicks got a reprieve when Larry Johnson found room in the right corner and buried a three-pointer to trail 82-77 with 402 left. After two Sprewell free throws drew the Knicks to within three, Outlaw, a 54-percent free-throw shooter who looks even worse, knocked in a pair to pump the Magic’s lead back up to 84-79. Two Thomas free throws cut the lead to three once again, but on consecutive chances, Johnson missed a three-pointer and Houston threw the ball away looking for Sprewell, keeping Orlando with a precarious 84-81 lead with 106 to play. The score didn’t change until the final 18 seconds.