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Friday, April 23, 2004
Did clock malfunctions impact final score?

Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks are unable to beat the New Jersey Nets on the court -- or off it.

NBA commissioner David Stern denied a protest Friday filed by the Knicks, who claimed the clock stopped twice in the final 1:50 of their Game 3 loss on Thursday night.

The league acknowledged the two stoppages occurred but determined neither was detrimental to New York, spokesman Brian McIntyre said.

Before the NBA's announcement, Knicks president Isiah Thomas said he would live with whatever the league decided.

"I am still fighting for our season, and the competitor in me will do everything in the rules to make sure we will stay alive," Thomas said.

Thomas wouldn't say it, but he wanted the NBA to order the teams to replay the final 1:50 of the game the Nets won 81-78. New Jersey had the ball with a two-point lead when the clock malfunctioned.

Thomas said the protest was filed immediately after the game ended.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

Most of the Knicks watched film and did some shooting Friday. The Nets had the day off.

The Knicks' public relations department brought along its own videotape to make its clock case with the media.

The first stoppage happened with 1:50 to go and eight seconds left on the shot clock, both of which are controlled by the game officials.

The sequence ended with Kenyon Martin of the Nets being fouled by Kurt Thomas with New Jersey ahead 75-73.

The videotape indicated that Martin probably would have been fouled just before a shot clock violation, although Thomas insisted Martin would have been under much more pressure with the clock winding down.

Martin missed both ensuing free throws.

The second malfunction happened with 29.2 seconds left and New Jersey leading 77-76. There were 11 seconds left on the shot clock.

Martin converted a three-point play shortly after the clock stopped.

The videotape showed Martin would have scored with about five seconds left on the shot clock.

Thomas said both were probably technical problems.

"This is not about officials' judgments," Thomas said. "You are allowed 24 seconds to complete an offensive play, and we think New Jersey was given more time to complete those plays."

Nets coach Lawrence Frank didn't know about either the clock problems or the protest until Friday.

"For whatever reason, they protested the game, but yet both shots would have counted even if the clock had been working properly," Frank said. "But you are concerned for the integrity of the game and it didn't affect the outcome, so I was a little bit surprised that they protested."

With the protest being turned down, the Knicks head into Game 4 facing the prospect of being swept for the first time in a seven-game series since Philadelphia did it in 1983.

Forward Tim Thomas, who has not played since being hurt on a flagrant foul by Jason Collins, is day to day. He said spasms in his bruised back are causing him more concern than his bruised ankle.

Thomas said his injury and a knee problem that has sidelined Allan Houston for the entire series have hurt the Knicks.

"Different story. Different story. You know that," Thomas said when asked, 'What if?' the Knicks had been healthy.

Stephon Marbury, who has been inconsistent throughout the series, agreed. He noted the Nets would not have been able to double and triple team him with Houston and Thomas in the lineup.

"It's a learning experience for us, something we have to go through to get where we want to go," said Marbury, who is averaging 18 points and 6.3 points.

No NBA team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

"It's not hard to still be confident," said Penny Hardaway, who replaced Thomas in the starting lineup. "We still see things on film that we are not doing to get us over the hump. We just have to get one game and see where it goes from there."