Crawford, Knicks lock down Nets
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New York @
87 - 79
Record: 11-10
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Jerome Williams doesn't take umbrage when he hears the Knicks knocked as a poor defensive team. He knows the statement is mostly true, and he's doing something about it.

Williams and Nazr Mohammed led a strong defensive effort in a game otherwise defined by offensive ineptitude, with the New York Knicks holding the New Jersey Nets without a basket for 15 minutes of an 87-79 victory Tuesday night.

Jamal Crawford scored 30 points but was one of the few players on either team who managed to get his offense going, and even he missed his last seven shots.

The Knicks are one of just three NBA teams to have allowed opponents to shoot better than 46 percent, and their lack of any type of physical, intimidating presence has been one of their glaring deficiencies.

"It doesn't bother me, it's just something we have to work hard at getting better at," Williams said. "You want to work on your weaknesses, and that's a weakness we know we have.

Williams has been one of the few defensive options for coach Lenny Wilkens to turn to, and he has begun to see consistent playing time in recent fourth quarters when the Knicks have needed a stopper.

On Tuesday, Williams helped force the Nets into a stretch of 15:02 in which they went 0-for-17 from the field with 13 turnovers.

Williams logged 26 minutes and was often matched against Richard Jefferson, who led New Jersey with 22 points but missed his final seven shots.

"We came out of training camp and I wasn't very happy with our defense, but I felt we would get better as time went on," Wilkens said. "We're starting to get better, and in that fourth quarter I thought we showed a lot of character with our defense."

It was only the third victory for New York in the last 19 games between the teams, and the Knicks snapped a seven-game losing streak at the Meadowlands against the remnants of the team that swept them out of the first round of the playoffs last spring.

The Nets, struggling to find any kind of rhythm with Jason Kidd's playing time severely limited, went through an abysmal stretch of 15:02 spanning the third and fourth quarters in which they scored just five points on foul shots.

Kidd, who played 21 minutes and had just two assists, is under playing time restrictions set by the team's medical staff.

"They know best at this point. I could tell them I feel great, but there is a bigger picture," Kidd said. "Longevity is what I think about now, being around in April and for next five years to be able to play without pain."

Kurt Thomas had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Mohammed contributed to the defensive effort with eight blocked shots -- double his previous career-high.

The Knicks overcame 23 turnovers and a shooting drought of their own in which they had no field goals in the final 6:31 and scored their final 10 points from the foul line.

Eric Williams added 21 points for the Nets and Kidd had 15 -- 10 in the final quarter.

Kidd's 3-pointer with 40 seconds left pulled New Jersey to 83-79, but Crawford made two free throws, Brian Scalabrine missed a 3 and Williams sank a pair from the line with 26.7 seconds left to end the Nets' final threat.

Knicks G Allan Houston sat out the entire second half, Wilkens saying he rested him so Houston would be available Wednesday against Detroit on the second night of a back-to-back set. Houston, in his third game back after recovering from chronic knee soreness, said he felt some injury-related stiffness but could have played in the third and/or fourth quarter. ... Nets G Travis Best strained his right groin late in the first half and did not return, and C Alonzo Mourning missed his third consecutive game due to a variety of nagging injuries. There is no timetable for Mourning's return. ... Knicks starting F Tim Thomas had another poor game, shooting 1-for-7 with two turnovers in just 11 minutes. It was his first game back at the Meadowlands since he hit the floor hard on a foul by Nets C Jason Collins during the teams' first-round playoff series. Thomas' anger over that episode has been directed almost exclusively at Collins' former teammate, Kenyon Martin. "I promised everybody I was going to leave it alone, and I've left it alone," Thomas said.

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