Beno Udrih steps up to run the show for Knicks
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In a Knicks season where little has gone according to their preseason plans, it only figures that they were on the doorstep of beating the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night because of -- wait for it -- Beno Udrih.
The journeyman point guard, thrust into a starting role because of Ray Felton's injured hip, responded with easily his best game of the season at a much-needed time.
Udrih scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including seven in the final four minutes, putting the Knicks in position to win.
But as has been the case for the Knicks this season, what they expected to happen -- in this case, a victory -- just wasn't meant to be.
They led by three with seconds remaining, thanks largely to Udrih, but a questionable foul call on Iman Shumpert while guarding Indiana's Paul George on a three-point attempt led to three free throws, sending the game in overtime and the Knicks on the road to another frustrating loss, 103-96.
But it was by no fault of Udrih, who totaled a stat line that almost matched his season totals thus far. In 37:50 he scored 19 points, shooting 8-for-15, to go along with eight rebounds and four assists and only two turnovers.
"I rode Beno. He had a helluva game," coach Mike Woodson said on why he didn't use Pablo Prigioni much in the second half.
Consider that the 6-3 point guard came into the game having played only 57 minutes in the Knicks' first 10 games this season, including five DNPs.
So as Woodson looks deep down his bench for players willing to buy into his system at a most frustrating time, the coach may have found a suitable point guard to run the team in Felton's absence.
Udrih is someone who is familiar with big moments, having been a part of NBA championship teams with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007.
A veteran of four NBA teams before the Knicks this year, he hadn't played much, starting the year behind Felton and Prigioni on the depth chart.
Udrih showed that he can run the offense, feed Carmelo Anthony often and also score when needed.
"I was just trying to play basketball the way I've been playing my whole career," Udrih said.
With the Knicks trailing 79-75 with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Udrih drilled a 25-foot three-pointer, kicking off a surprising scoring spree by the lefthanded point guard from Slovenia.
Udrih scored seven of 12 the Knicks' points, a run that was capped by a circus-like shot in the paint 5 feet from the basket that opened an 87-86 lead with 1:21 remaining.
"I just wanted to give it a chance, and it went in," Udrih said.