Knicks drop five of six

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- While New York's Tim Thomas warned the

Sacramento Kings about the dangers of bad defense, rookie Darius

Songaila showed the value of simple persistence.

Mike Bibby scored 28 points and Songaila had career highs of 17

points and 13 rebounds in the Kings' seventh victory in eight

games, 107-99 over the Knicks on Tuesday night.

With just 10 players in uniform and three stars out of the

lineup, Sacramento played terrible defense and had almost no inside

game. Thomas got an embarrassing number of open shots while scoring

a season-high 33 points.

But the Kings still stretched their NBA-record home winning

streak against the Eastern Conference to 29 games, largely thanks

to the dogged efforts of Songaila, who played 43 minutes and held

his own against New York's larger frontcourt.

"If he can do that for us, we don't miss the guys who are out

as much," said Peja Stojakovic, who scored 27 points. "He was all

over the court tonight, on offense and defense. He played hard, and

everybody else played harder (because of it)."

Vlade Divac had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for

the Kings, who improved the NBA's best record to 41-14 despite

playing without All-Star Brad Miller, Chris Webber and Bobby


Songaila picked up the slack, crashing the boards relentlessly

and providing a defensive spark. He got two key offensive rebounds

in the fourth quarter as Sacramento held on.

"I can't even imagine those guys that are playing 30-40 minutes

a night," Songaila said. "With Brad being out, we need to bring

that intensity on the boards, because he's our leading rebounder.

I'm just trying to go after the boards on every possession."

In the opener of the Knicks' four-game road trip, Thomas scored

four more points than he got in his first three games combined

after the Feb. 15 trade that brought him to the Knicks from

Milwaukee. He made six straight shots in the second half, but he

began to miss and later fouled out during Sacramento's decisive

21-7 run in the fourth quarter.

"(Stojakovic) is the All-Star, he gets all the calls," Thomas

said. "In the first three games, I was just trying to get used to

the system, the guys. Midseason trades are difficult, but it's

going to come together for us."

Stephon Marbury had 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting and nine

assists for New York, which lost for the fifth time in six games

following a 9-3 start under coach Lenny Wilkens.

"We're starting to get our chemistry back, and this will help

us," Wilkens said.

Nazr Mohammed had a season-high 15 points in his first start for

New York, which has a seven-game losing streak in Sacramento since

Feb. 20, 1997.

Bibby made seven of his first nine shots, scoring 16 points in

the first half as the Kings kept it close. Thomas has been a

profoundly streaky shooter his entire career, but he nearly shot

the Knicks to an unlikely victory while scoring 20 points in the

second half.

The Kings wore the retro uniforms of the 1974-75 Kansas

City-Omaha Kings -- and they played appropriate defense to emulate a

team that allowed more than 101 points per game. The Knicks made 12

of their first 17 shots and scored 30 points in the first quarter.

Thomas struggled in the Knicks' loss to Cleveland on Sunday,

prompting New York fans to chant the name of Keith Van Horn, traded

to Milwaukee for Thomas. New York's lack of consistent outside

shooting has hurt recently, but Thomas showed he could be the

answer -- when he's on a good streak, that is.

"Tim had a great game," Marbury said. "We pretty much rode

him. They beat you with offense. That's what they did tonight."

Game notes
Webber served the fifth game of his eight-game suspension.

... Miller and Knicks G Allan Houston both went through aggressive

pregame workouts, but neither was ready to return from injury.

Miller missed his fifth game since spraining his right foot in the

All-Star game, while Houston missed his ninth straight game with a

knee injury. ... Jackson isn't allowed to work out until next week

at the earliest. The Kings don't want him to aggravate his

abdominal injury by coming back too soon. "It's tough, because I

usually spend a lot of time in the gym every week," Jackson said.

"I hate it like this."