|New York vs Oklahoma City|
|116 - 106|
When the roller-coaster was over, the New York Knicks were off to their best start in a decade.
Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph each scored 29 points, combining for 10 in the final 4 minutes after New York had blown most of a 30-point lead, and the Knicks held on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-106 on Friday night.
"First two quarters, 2 1/2 quarters, it was great," Crawford said. "We kind of let up in the end but we came out with the win. If you can learn lessons in wins, you take them."
Nate Robinson made his first five shots, giving him 13 in a row over two games, and Randolph had 19 rebounds in his seventh straight double-double. But the Knicks' huge cushion was down to seven at 102-95 before Crawford and Randolph bailed them out.
The Knicks led by 24 points at halftime. The franchise record for largest halftime blown lead in a loss is 25, and the last time an NBA team lost a game they led by 24 or more at the half was Boston's 110-106 loss to Phoenix on Dec. 5, 2003, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Celtics led 62-36 at the break.
"The way we play, uptempo, it can happen like that," Randolph said. "The way we play, teams can come back and get hot, or we can get cold, and that's what we did tonight. But all the guys played hard and we finished the game out."
David Lee had a season-high 18 points and Robinson 15 for the Knicks, who picked up in the first half where they left off two nights ago. After scoring 72 points in the second half of their 132-103 victory in Memphis on Wednesday night, the Knicks hung 68 on the hapless Thunder in the first 24 minutes.
The Knicks (6-3) are off to their best start since also going 6-3 to open the lockout-delayed 1998-99 season, when they made their last NBA finals appearance.
"Well you know, it's human nature to celebrate a little early," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought we didn't run out of energy physically, but mentally we just got a little bit happy. I think that's normal."
This team won't go that far, but they look much better when last season, when they went under 23-59 under Isiah Thomas. New York improved to 3-1 against the Western Conference after going just 3-27 in 2007-08.
Kevin Durant returned from a one-game absence with an ankle injury to score 23 points for the Thunder, who dropped their sixth straight and fell to 1-8. Russell Westbrook , the No. 4 pick in the draft, had a season-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds and six assists.
"You've got to start off well. Tonight they jumped on top of us early," Durant said. "In this league, once you are down 30, you can't come back and win a game tired."
The Knicks scored the final nine points of the first quarter, building a 37-20 lead. They opened the second with seven in a row, opening a 44-20 bulge on Robinson's 3-pointer a little more than a minute into the period.
Robinson finally missed when a 3-pointer spun out a couple of minutes later, but by then Randolph was heating up. He scored 15 points in the quarter, and the Knicks took a 68-44 lead into the half.
"They had it felt like a hundred points in the paint the first half. In the second half we had the better of it inside," Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I'm sure there's a little bit of them perhaps relaxing because of the lead, but ... it's more about it took us a long time to find a group that was really playing hard. And when we found the guys that were really competing and playing hard, we played very well."
The Knicks, on the wrong end of so many beatings in recent seasons, seemed to particularly enjoy the other side, cheering and laughing through the end of a young girl's singing performance during a halftime talent show.
But the break slowed them down, as Oklahoma City trimmed it to 93-77 after three behind eight third-quarter points from Durant. The Thunder scored six straight to cut it to 100-89, and finally got to 102-95 on Westbrook's bucket with 5:13 left. Crawford scored the next four points, Randolph made two free throws, and each added another bucket to make it 112-100.
Notes: Johnny Newman holds the Knicks' record for consecutive made field goals, hitting 19 in a row from Jan. 1-8, 1988. ... Knicks rookie Danilo Gallinari received another cortisone shot for his ailing back Thursday and will have an "extended period of rest" while seeking additional opinions on treatment. Gallinari, the No. 6 pick in the draft, said he could miss six weeks.