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Knicks hold off late Hornets rally to end losing streak

NEW ORLEANS -- Mike D'Antoni worried that his up-tempo approach had led the New York Knicks into rushing unwise shots.

He wanted more ball movement and more patience -- and the Knicks finally came through during a tough road test against one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

David Lee scored 24 points and the Knicks had 30 assists, ending a three-game losing streak with a 101-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.

"The biggest thing is we had 30 assists," D'Antoni said. "We've been stressing that; just don't settle for shots. Defensively, we played as hard as we did the other times, we just made a few more shots tonight."

During the first three games of their four-game road trip -- losses in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston -- the Knicks had 42 assists combined and no more than 15 in any of those games.

In New Orleans, Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson moved the ball crisply in setting up their teammates 17 times. Even center Jared Jeffries got into the act, finding cutters along the base line or through the lane for six assists.

"We had patience. We were driving the ball, kicking, not settling," D'Antoni said. "This was a big win, obviously."

The Knicks' shooters were in rhythm and it showed in crucial final minutes.

Richardson and Al Harrington each hit 3-pointers inside the final 1:14 to ensure the Knicks withstood a Hornets rally that trimmed a 14-point lead to three late in the game.

Harrington finished with 20 points, while Wilson Chandler scored 19 points, hitting a jumper with 2:07 left and a driving layup soon after to help keep the Hornets at bay.

"We played hard, we played together and we were sharing the ball," Richardson said. "This is an example of the way we need to play. ... It shows when we play that way we can beat some of he best teams in the NBA."

David West had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets but was 6-of-20 from the field. Chris Paul added 23 points for New Orleans.

West said he knew the Knicks were "a dangerous basketball team just from their style of play."

"When they came out and made us defend them, they were moving the ball with five, six or seven passes every trip they made," West continued. "They really dug in and made that third and fourth effort. They've got a bunch of guys that can really shoot the ball."

The Knicks led most of the game because of the continued assertive play of Lee, who had a dunk, a fast-break layup and a 17-foot jump shot during an 8-2 spurt that gave the Knicks a 59-47 lead midway through the third quarter.

New Orleans trimmed the Knicks' lead to 69-63 by the end of three quarters, when Hornets coach Byron Scott made the unusual move of keeping Paul in the game instead of giving him his normal rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Still, the Knicks pulled away again as reserves Harrington and Nate Robinson each hit 3s during an 8-0 run, giving the Knicks a 77-63 lead with 10 minutes to go.

The Hornets began to climb back into the game with an 8-1 run on Antonio Daniels' 3, West's putback and Paul's 3, which cut New York's lead to 82-77 with 6:05 to go.

Two minutes later, Rasual Butler added another 3 and a reverse layup on a fast-break pass from Paul, cutting it to 86-82 with 3:46 left. After Chandler's layup put the Knicks ahead 91-85, Peja Stojakovic's 3 trimmed it to 91-88 with 1:29 left.

That's when Richardson, who had nine points, answered with his big 3. New Orleans got within three points once more on Butler's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, but Harrington drilled his 3-pointer with 27 seconds left.

Duhon, who grew up in the New Orleans suburb of Slidell, scored 10 points and his 3 in the second quarter wound up being the basket that put New York in the lead to stay.

Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which hadn't lost to New York since Dec. 8, 2004, before Paul turned pro. Butler finished with 18 points, but the Hornets had an off night shooting, finishing at 38.4 percent while New York shot 43.8 percent.

New York began to pull away when reserve Tim Thomas hit his first four shots, including a 3 and a dunk cutting through the lane, to put the Knicks ahead 37-31 in the second quarter.

"The way we came out, we let them get easy layups and dunks. They got comfortable," Paul said. "They've been on a long road trip. This is the last game. We should have come out and tried to punish them early. They might have laid down. We let them get going, so they felt like they had a chance to win, and they did."

Game notes
Knicks center Eddy Curry, who made his season debut on Jan. 8 at Dallas, missed his second straight game with the same right knee soreness that has sidelined him most of the season. Paul swished a shot from halfcourt at the halftime horn, but officials ruled the shot left his hands after time expired and a video review confirmed it. ... Lee finished with nine rebounds, coming up one short of a ninth straight double-double.