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Knicks show toughness down stretch to top Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Quentin Richardson didn't do his usual double-fist bump and tap his head, instead opting to just peer over at Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks bench with a look that almost said, yes, he's still got it.

It was only hours earlier that the Knicks coach had stated he was about the curtail his rotation and planned on utilizing an eight- or nine-man one, leaving Richardson as the most likely candidate to stay glued to the bench. But Richardson's number was called in crunch time and he delivered a huge 21-foot jumper to give the Knicks a five-point bulge with 21.9 seconds left in overtime.

"I just knew I gave my team that much more of a chance to win," Richardson said, "it was a shot that gave us a little lead, a little cushion with only a little time left. So, I knew it was a big shot."

Richardson's jumper was the decisive blow in the Knicks' spirited 116-111 overtime win over the Pistons at the Palace at Auburn Hills last night. His big bucket capped the Knicks' improbable comeback from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit that kept their playoff hopes alive.

The Knicks (27-37) managed to climb to 1 1/2 games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference pending the outcome of the Nets' late game against Golden State.

"We got to keep trying to not think about it," Nate Robinson said. "But our goals are real high right now, so we've got to take each step game-by-game and practice-by-practice and we'll be OK."

Robinson led the Knicks with 30 points and six assists, and he hit all 10 of his free throws. Larry Hughes finished with 22 points and David Lee recorded his 52nd double-double of the season with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Wilson Chandler, who ignited an important 9-2 run to cut the Pistons' 81-71 advantage to start the fourth with a posterizing dunk over Antonio McDyess, added 17 points and six rebounds.

Richard Hamilton paced the Pistons with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and was unstoppable for most of the game. McDyess, the former Knick, added 21 points and a career-high 22 rebounds, and Tayshaun Prince had 25 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons (32-31), who clobbered the Knicks on the boards by a 64-39 margin and had 23 offensive rebounds.

Looking for ninth victory away from the Garden and just their second two-game win streak on the road this season, the Knicks were almost fortunate to get an extra five minutes to top a depleted Pistons squad that was without Allen Iverson (sore back) and Rasheed Wallace (left calf strain). But they'll take it considering the wild ending that probably left more than a few lumps in the throats of the 20,135 fans.

Trailing 101-98 with 12.7 seconds left in regulation and the ball, the Knicks caught a big break when Detroit first-year coach Michael Curry didn't instruct his players to foul so the Knicks couldn't get off a potentially game-tying three. Hughes rose up from the beyond left side of the arc and was fouled on the wrist by Hamilton as he took a three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining.

Hughes hit all three attempts - the second one rattled in - to tie the game, which eventually went into overtime after Rodney Stuckey's pass to McDyess sailed out of bounds with 1.2 seconds left.

"I felt comfortable," Hughes said. "I've been going every night and working on my free throws so I'm pretty comfortable at the line shooting three. In that situation, it's what we get paid to do."

Hughes had 17 of his points in the second half and Robinson also was brilliant down the stretch, playing within himself and not forcing things on the way to a 16-point showing in the final 29 minutes that kept a struggling Chris Duhon on the bench. He swished four free throws in the final 14.9 seconds of overtime to seal the second win on their four-game trip.

"Obviously, this means a lot because we are playing for a playoff spot," Al Harrington said. "We did what we are supposed to do. I wish we could be on a four-game winning streak at this point, but we'll take what we've got right here and are looking forward to Minnesota."

Tomorrow

Knicks at

Minnesota

8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11

Radio: WEPN (1050)

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