Classic Night, Classic Loss
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New York vs
91 - 92
Record: 17-22
Padget brings the victory for Houston in the last second (AP Photo)
Padget brings the victory for Houston in the last second (AP Photo)
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Knicks made sure Tracy McGrady didn't beat them in the final seconds, leaving Scott Padgett with the biggest shot of the game.

The backup forward came up with one of the best plays of his five-year NBA career, hitting an off-balance, one-hander from just inside the free throw line as time expired to give the Rockets a 92-91 victory Friday night in what might have been Lenny Wilkens' last game as coach of the Knicks.

Wilkens met with team president Isiah Thomas after the loss and indicated he would likely resign as head coach, two sources told The Associated Press.

The resignation will likely come Saturday morning when the team holds practice at its suburban New York training facility, said the two NBA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Padgett scored after New York's Jamal Crawford was unable to handle a pass from Stephon Marbury, leading to a shot-clock violation with 10.2 seconds left.

"They sure didn't call that play for me," Padgett said. "I didn't have anybody to pass to and I knew I had to get a shot off. I got lucky. I don't think I've hit a floater in my career. It was not a bad time to make the first one."

McGrady scored 35 points, six on two 3-pointers in Houston's 13-0 run at the start of the second half, to help the Rockets win for the fifth time in their last seven games.

The Knicks lost for the ninth time in 10 games, and the second time this week on a last-second shot.

"We were up three with a minute to go. It seems that's been our life of late," Crawford said. "I has to turn. It can't be this bad."

New York lost 88-86 to Chicago on Monday, when Ben Gordon made a driving 8-footer with less than a second left.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy faced the Knicks at Madison Square Garden for the second time since resigning as New York's coach in 2001. In his first game back last January, the Rockets routed the Knicks 111-79 a week before Don Chaney was fired as New York's coach. This time, it was Wilkens' job on the line.

"You have to look at the effort of the team and how they're playing," Wilkens said. "I thought we played hard enough to win the game. They just came up with the big shot and we wind up on the losing end. Our guys never quit."

Marbury scored 20 points, and Crawford had 18 for the Knicks, who have lost six games this season by one or two points.

"We just have to accept that that's the way the NBA is, but it's very frustrating," Marbury said. "This game is history. It's not going to come back."

McGrady was 5-of-12 from 3-point range and 13-of-27 overall from the field in the All-Star's only appearance in New York this season. Yao Ming added 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Padgett finished with 12 points.

New York's Michael Sweetney scored four straight points to cut the Rockets' lead to one with 2:14 remaining, and the Knicks took the lead on Jerome Williams' two free throws with 1:51 left. After Marbury made two more free throws to give the Knicks a 91-88 lead, Yao countered with an inside basket.

After the Knicks turned it over on the shot-clock violation, the Rockets tried to set up McGrady for the last shot, but Padgett ended up the hero.

"Those guys played great defense at the end," McGrady said. "I couldn't get a shot off. I had to pass the ball and thank God it went to the right person. It was a little payback for when Jamal Crawford beat us at the buzzer in Houston."

The Rockets, coming off a 108-99 victory Thursday night in McGrady's return to Orlando, outscored the Knicks 31-17 in the third quarter to take a 72-63 lead.

The Knicks' third-quarter meltdown came two days after they unraveled in the fourth quarter in a 17-point loss in Toronto. In that game, the Raptors outscored the Knicks 17-2 in the final 4:55.

New York guard Allan Houston missed the game because of a sore left knee. "I've been needing to do it (rest), but I just couldn't. I wish I could have done it earlier." ... The Knicks will complete their four-game homestand with games against Milwaukee, Phoenix and Cleveland before opening a six-game trip in Detroit. ... Former Knicks guard Rod Strickland, signed by the Rockets on Wednesday, had four assists in 10 scoreless minutes. ... Houston and Kurt Thomas are the only New York players remaining from Van Gundy's stint with the Knicks. ... Former Yankees stars Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles were in the stands along with actor Matt Dillon, models Karolina Kurkova and Bridget Hall and rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris.

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