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Knicks return to playoffs with help from Mutombo

By Wire services
Published April 8, 2004

NEW YORK - For the first time in three years, the Knicks are going to the playoffs.

Dikembe Mutombo re-emerged as a factor in his most extensive playing time in 61/2 weeks, neutralizing Knicks nemesis Eddy Curry while grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking four shots in New York's 96-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

The Knicks qualified for the playoffs when Memphis beat Cleveland 92-74.

"When it's playoff time, this building should never be closed. It should always be open. The fans deserve that," Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said.

There was little suspense as New York opened a big lead in the first half and coasted through the final 24 minutes, the players sneaking the occasional glance at the out-of-town scoreboard.

By the time the Cavaliers-Grizzlies game was final, many Knicks were already on the way out of the arena.

"We pretty much shut everybody up, and that's the best part about it," said Marbury, who came to the Knicks in a midseason trade as part of en extensive roster overhaul engineered by new team president Isiah Thomas.

Mutombo, who lost his starting job to Nazr Mohammed after a loss to Cleveland on Feb. 22, was playing in his second game after missing 16 straight games due to minor abdominal surgery. He helped contain the 7-foot Curry, who shot 9-for-11 and had 26 points and 14 rebounds the last time the teams met.

Curry, a 68 percent shooter in his first 10 career games against the Knicks, finished 7-for-21 from the field.

Marbury had 20 points and 12 assists for New York.

"I knew that at some point my team would need me," Mutombo said. "When it comes to the playoffs, I'm going to have to respond to whatever they ask of me. It's good to have guys like myself who have been in the playoffs before and understand what it takes to go all the way to the finals. We've got a chance to accomplish that."

PACERS 94, RAPTORS 90: Visiting Indiana eliminated Toronto from playoff contention, with Jermaine O'Neal scoring 22 and grabbing 11 rebounds for the East-leading Pacers. Donyell Marshall scored 26 and had 10 rebounds for the Raptors, in a 1-8 skid.

BUCKS 116, WIZARDS 107: Michael Redd scored 35 and host Milwaukee overcame the absence of Keith Van Horn and Washington's long-range shooting for a fourth straight win, keeping the Bucks 11/2 games ahead of fifth-place Miami in the East. Desmond Mason added a season-high 27 points and Toni Kukoc had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

GRIZZLIES 92, CAVALIERS 74: James Posey scored 35 in host Memphis' 50th win. It marked the fifth consecutive game Posey led the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 28.4 in the stretch. Dajuan Wagner led Cleveland with 18 points while rookie LeBron James, guarded by Posey and Shane Battier most of the night, was held to 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

HEAT 104, CELTICS 101: Lamar Odom had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Miami erased a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 15-2 burst. Boston's Paul Pierce had 31 points, but missed what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.

SPURS 96, SONICS 75: Tim Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds for host San Antonio, which moved within one game of Midwest leader Minnesota with four games left for both teams. The Spurs, winners of seven straight, ran off a 19-4 burst early in the second half after leading 46-36 at the break.

NUGGETS 111, SUNS 97: Carmelo Anthony scored 36 and grabbed 11 rebounds and visiting Denver moved into a three-way tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The vastly improved Nuggets, who won only 17 games last season, are 41-37, the same record as idle Utah and Portland. The Suns had only eight healthy players to begin the game.

BLAZERS 87, WARRIORS 81: Darius Miles scored 21 to keep the playoff race close for host Portland, which has won 11 of its past 15. Golden State already has been eliminated from playoff contention for the 11th straight season.

BUCKS: Rookie point guard T.J. Ford will miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs with a bruised spinal cord. He hasn't played since Feb. 24, when he landed on his tailbone in a game against Minnesota.

BULLS: Guard Kendall Gill was placed on the injured list because of migraine headaches and Chris Jefferies was activated to take his roster spot.

GRIZZLIES: Forward James Posey was fined $7,500 by the NBA for kicking a ball into the stands late in Monday's 92-81 loss to the Jazz.

RAPTORS: Guard Roger Mason was activated and point guard Rod Strickland was placed on the injured list with a back problem.

[Last modified April 8, 2004, 01:35:43]


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