Knicks Rest Chandler, and Are Able to Exhale at the Finish

Before they took the court against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, the Knicks took a calculated gamble, choosing to rest Tyson Chandler, their defensive conscience, even if it might mean giving up a game and a chance to change the standings.

It all turned out O.K. — albeit by mere inches and mere tenths of a second — when Atlanta’s Marvin Williams blew a driving dunk at the final buzzer, allowing the Knicks to escape with a 113-112 victory.

Amar’e Stoudemire and converged on Williams as he drove the lane, challenging him just enough to prevent the basket. On a day when neither team played much defense, that was the only stand that mattered.

“It was a good drive by him,” said Stoudemire, who looked lively in his second game back from a back injury. “He attacked the rim well. I think Melo and myself both had our hands on the ball, so it was tough for him to make that basket.”

Replays showed that Williams did not release the ball before the buzzer sounded, which was also a credit to the Knicks, for delaying him just long enough on the drive. Williams had intended to hand the ball back to Joe Johnson, but Iman Shumpert cut off the pass.

Replays also appeared to show some contact between Stoudemire and Williams, although Stoudemire denied it.

“I drove the ball and I felt like I got fouled at the end,” Williams said. “But they didn’t call it, so you just move on to the next one.”

It was an encouraging moment for the Knicks all the way around — for the victory it preserved and for Stoudemire’s stout effort in Chandler’s place. He finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds and absorbed several hard hits, appearing every bit recovered from the bulging disk that cost him 13 games.

“I felt great, I felt strong,” he said. “My back feels phenomenal.”

Anthony, who struggled Friday in Cleveland, regained his touch with a 39-point, 10-rebound effort while alternately dueling with Johnson (22 points), Williams (29) and Josh Smith (14). Jeff Teague added 23 points for the Hawks (38-26), who are practically locked into the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The victory kept the Knicks (34-30) in seventh place, with a half-game lead on the Philadelphia 76ers (33-30), with two games to play. The Knicks also kept alive their slim hopes to catch Orlando (36-28), which lost to Denver on Sunday night, for sixth.

Coach Mike Woodson agreed to Chandler’s request for a day off, concluding it was more important to protect his defensive anchor than to jockey for playoff position. “I think so,” Woodson said. “For him, it is.”

Chandler plans to return to the lineup Wednesday night, when the Knicks close their home schedule against the Los Angeles Clippers. They conclude the regular season Thursday in Charlotte. The playoffs begin two days later.

Chandler is not injured, but he has played a team-high 2,029 minutes and is averaging 36 a game in April.

“I want to be fresh for the playoffs,” Chandler said. “And the coaching staff and medical staff thought it would be best for me to get rest here, because we have one game in four days.”

Without Chandler to hold the defense together, the Knicks turned porous, giving up 65 points in the first half and allowing the Hawks to shoot 58 percent through three quarters. They finally responded in the fourth, holding Atlanta to 7-for-18 shooting.

“It just shows how valuable Tyson Chandler is to our ball club,” Woodson said, adding: “We missed him. We stayed the course.”

Woodson smiled as he called the game an “old-school shootout,” but then admitted: “Yeah, I hated it. I’d like to see some defense.”

The Knicks’ offense more than compensated, as all five starters scored in double figures, including a resurgent Landry Fields, who produced 18 points and went 7 for 8 from the field.

The lead changed hands four times in the final 3 minutes 7 seconds, with the Knicks finally taking a 113-112 lead on Anthony’s 22-footer with 1:40 left. The Knicks blew two chances to pad the lead in the final minute, with J. R. Smith throwing the ball away and Anthony missing a quick 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.

REBOUNDS

Jared Jeffries rested his sore right knee again Sunday and will be held out of the final two games as well, Mike Woodson said. He is expected back for Game 1 of the playoffs, however. “We’re playing well right now,” Jeffries said. “I can take this time to get myself back ready.” Assuming he skips the final two games, Jeffries will have played in just 6 of the 19 final regular-season games. He reiterated that he did not need surgery. “It’s just playing 10 years in the league,” he said. “It’s just a bad knee.” … Woodson said he also considered resting Carmelo Anthony but that Anthony preferred to play. “He knows his body,” Woodson said. “I’m sure if there’s any issues there, he’ll tell me and we’ll back off.”

Cable TV Dispute Leads Some N.Y. Fans to Buy Tickets

There were portable radios to retrieve, Internet piracy laws to test, acquaintances to beg for a dinner invitation — provided they subscribed to another cable provider. And then there were those who begrudgingly shelled out money for a seat.

“It’s such a short season,” said Kyle Thomas, 42, a Time Warner Cable subscriber from the Upper East Side, explaining his decision to attend Saturday’s game between the Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. “Don’t force me to watch daytime television, recorded.”

Since New Year’s Day, the MSG channels, which carry games for the Knicks, the Rangers, the Devils and the Islanders, have been unavailable to the 1.7 million Time Warner Cable customers in the metropolitan region and parts of upstate New York. Fans in Buffalo have also seen their beloved Sabres blacked out.

The Giants will play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, but generally the winter can be a lean time for a New York sports fan.

The Rangers last won the Stanley Cup in the 20th century, and the Knicks’ last championship came during the Nixon administration. The Yankees and the Mets are still weeks away from spring training, and any hopes for the Jets will have a long wait until next season.

There are college basketball games, sure, but little sign of citywide unity behind a single team. St. John’s University has struggled this year. And the Violets of New York University, ranked 23rd in Division III, have failed to capture the hearts and minds of ESPN scheduling executives.

The blackout has even left some fans to consider the ultimate indignity: turning to the lowly Nets, cable’s only local game in town on some evenings.

“They’re pushing me in that direction,” said Clarence Patterson, 43, a Knicks fan from Brooklyn who has taken to carrying a small radio in recent weeks. Mr. Patterson lives a short walk from the Brooklyn arena that the Nets are scheduled to open next season, he said. Yet the chief obstacle to a defection, he added, was the team itself.

Perhaps the only New Yorkers to benefit from the blackout are the scalpers of Seventh Avenue, scanning the area for targets before each Knicks home game at the Garden.

“It’s a strong market,” one of them said, smiling beneath his wool hat before Saturday night’s game. “People who want to see the game have to come outside.”

Scalpers say that only one force could derail their momentum: the disastrous start to the Knicks’ season. With the double-overtime defeat Saturday, in which Carmelo Anthony, the former Nuggets star, took to the court against his former teammates, the Knicks had lost six straight games, falling to 6-10.

Shawn DeGrechie, 40, from Rockaway Park in Queens, who attended the game with Mr. Thomas, said the blackout of the Rangers, who hold first place in their division, was particularly painful. “People have very few things to look forward to in life,” he said.

He paused at the Garden entryway, staring at the ground. “There’s family,” he said, shrugging.

The dispute has focused on what Time Warner Cable will pay MSG to carry its regional sports channels in a new contract. While some higher-profile games are available to Time Warner Cable customers if they are broadcast on national television, the feuding parties have accelerated their public relations efforts in recent weeks.

The cable company’s employees have worn Knicks jerseys at Time Warner Cable retail centers in the city. The company has also organized a sweepstakes to send 10 fans, and one guest each, to the Knicks’ road game on Tuesday at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

MSG has hosted a series of viewing parties at bars across the city — most of which have — offering free soda and appetizers, raffles for signed memorabilia, and appearances from former Knicks and Rangers players and team dancers.

But for many fans, driven from their couches, paying for a ticket has proved more palatable.

Jared Kleinstein, 24, a Denver native who now lives in New York, said he attended the game on Saturday in part because the blackout had interfered with his schadenfreude. “We don’t have the opportunity to say ‘I told you so’ to the TV every time Carmelo throws up a brick,” he said.

For his sister, Shane, the blackout has created romantic complications. Her boyfriend recently suggested that they exchange apartment keys. She asked him why. So he could watch the Knicks play, he told her.

“It was only for the cable,” she said, sighing. “But sports brings people together.”

Knicks Take Down Division-Leading 76ers

Yet playing only their 10th game of this lockout-shortened season and just their second opponent with a winning record, the passed it Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

With defense. And despite subscribing to their own version of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan down the stretch on offense: nine turnovers and nine missed shots from the floor in the last nine minutes.

The Knicks’ defense, though, held the fort in an 85-79 victory over the , who had won six straight to storm to the top of the Atlantic Division but were also playing for the third straight night and the fifth time in six days.

So, unlike the Knicks, who got a day off after beating a third straight sub-500. opponent Monday (Charlotte), the 76ers had reason to be cooked.

Instead, they tested Coach ’s team sternly, wiping out all but 2 points of a 16-point first-half deficit before the end of the third quarter, then all but 4 of a subsequent 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, mostly because of their league-best defense.

But after slapped a tourniquet on the Knicks’ third-quarter wounds, scoring 10 points in one stretch, the defense bailed out the home team.

It held the 76ers, third in the league in scoring, to more than 22 points less than their average of 101.6 points per game. It stood firm in those final nine minutes, during which the Knicks managed only seven free throws.

“We’re starting to buckle down on the defensive end,” Anthony said. “We’re starting to trust one another. We’re having each other’s backs out there.”

Plus, he said, he and his teammates are following the defensive lead of the rookie Iman Shumpert, whose 5-for-15, 10-point, 3-assist, 4-turnover line didn’t measure his contribution to the Knicks’ fourth straight victory.

“Iman puts a lot of pressure on the ball and he can do a lot of things,” D’Antoni said.

“What he’s bringing to the game right now, believe it or not, we’re feeding off of him, as a rookie,” Anthony said. “For me to say that, that says a lot.”

D’Antoni said: “Other guys are buying in. For us to win, they have to keep that intensity where it is and we will get the offense right.”

Anthony, who needed 24 shots to score 27 points, concurred, although the offensive ineptitude was not a surprise against a team that entered the night with the league’s best scoring and field-goal defense, allowing 85.6 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting.

But it was the Knicks’ defense that surprised 76ers Coach Doug Collins, who called it “the best defense I’ve seen them play. It’s not anywhere near what I saw from the three games I watched prior. This was a totally different team tonight that we played against than what I saw on tape.”

Still, the Knicks had to again win ugly. After a dunk by Amar’e Stoudemire (20 points, 10 rebounds) on a Shumpert feed with 9 minutes 2 seconds left gave the Knicks a 17-point lead, the offense bumbled and stumbled to the finish line.

The defense, however, hung on to produce the Knicks’ first victory against a winning team this season. They lost Dec. 29 in Los Angeles, 99-82, to the Lakers.

“It only matters because Philly’s playing well,” D’Antoni said of the victory’s significance. “They’re in our division, so it counts as two. But it’s only our 10th game.”

The Knicks did keep Philadelphia from becoming only the second team this season to sweep a three games-in-three-nights stretch. Oklahoma City (where the Knicks play Saturday) did it Jan. 6-8.

“We’ve got to get our offense better than that,” D’Antoni said. “We can’t keep the game in the 70s and think that we’re doing what’s right. We can get a lot better offensively — and we will.”

Anthony said: “Nothing is easy. We’re winning games, they’re ugly wins, we’ll take it.

“I’m not too concerned about the offensive end. I’m more proud of what we’re doing on the defensive end, stopping guys.”

REBOUNDS

Landry Fields, the second-year Knicks guard who has struggled with his shot this season, making 19.2 percent of his 3-point attempts, began the game as the Knicks’ top plus-minus player at plus 48. The rookie big man Josh Harrellson was second at plus 47. … The veteran big man Jared Jeffries confirmed what Mike D’Antoni had been saying. If he does not have a setback with the right calf injury that has sidelined him since the season opener, Jeffries expects to play Saturday. … Philadelphia played without the starting center Spencer Hawes, who has a lower back injury.