Baker's jump hook seals it


NEW YORK (AP) -- This was the reason why the Knicks added Vin

Baker made a jump hook over the outstretched arm of Theo
Ratliff, the league's leading shot blocker, with 38 seconds left to
give the New York Knicks' a three-point lead that held up Monday
night in a 92-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Baker had two nifty low-post moves against Ratliff for baskets
in the final 2{ minutes that helped the Knicks to a crucial home

"He played like the Olympian he used to be," Stephon Marbury
said of Baker, a four-time All-Star and member of the 2000 U.S.
Olympic team. "I've been calling him the Olympian in practice
pretty much to get him into that flow."

Tim Thomas returned after a four-game injury absence and scored
11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. Marbury scored 23 and
Moochie Norris played his most significant role of the season with
13 points in 29 minutes.

Damon Stoudamire had 20 points and Zach Randolph 19 for the
Blazers, who began the night in a virtual tie with Utah for eighth
place in the West.

Portland had a shot for the win, but Stoudamire missed an
off-balance 20-footer at the buzzer. Portland lost for just the
third time in 10 games.

"We played with some urgency tonight, and that's what we need
to do," said Baker, who was signed earlier this month after an
arbitrator ruled he was a free agent following the termination of
his contract by the Boston Celtics.

The Knicks won without Allan Houston (bruised quadriceps) and
Penny Hardaway (strained groin). Thomas had been out with a
strained groin.

The Blazers began a stretch of four straight games against teams
in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. A three-game
road trip will take them to New York, Boston and Philadelphia
before they return home to play New Orleans on Saturday.

"This one hurts," coach Maurice Cheeks said. "It always helps
to get the first one because it gives you momentum to get the
second one.",

The Knicks, who began the night in seventh place in the East,
will play five of their final seven games on the road.

Baker ripped an offensive rebound away from Stoudamire, who
claimed he was fouled on the play, and fed Marbury behind the
3-point line where he was fouled. He made all three foul shots for
a 90-89 lead with 1:24 left.

After a miss by Stoudamire, the Knicks ran the shot clock almost
completely down before Baker made a move to his right and flipped a
short jump hook over Ratliff for a three-point lead with 38 seconds

"I've played against Theo the last eight years, so I know you
have to get some loft on the shot," Baker said. "But it's not
about the shot, you've got to create space with him, and once I
created the space, the shot -- basically I didn't worry about it."

Ratliff, who had six blocks, answered with a dunk over Baker,
leaving a seven-second differential between the game clock and the
shot clock.

The Knicks again ran the clock down and could only manage a
force by Tim Thomas, but Portland was out of timeouts and could not
stop the clock before Stoudamire's final attempt.

"I knew he was going to get the ball and take the last shot,"
Marbury said. "He was going to have to shoot it right over me."

Portland was ahead for all but 77 seconds of the first half, and
Stoudamire had seven of the Blazers' first 11 points in the third
quarter to give Portland a 58-48 lead.

Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens yanked Shandon Anderson and put
Norris on Stoudamire, letting Marbury slide over to defend Derek
Anderson. Norris ended the third quarter with a 3-pointer, making
him 4-for-4 from the field and pulling New York to 66-64.

"You've got to do things to change sometimes," Norris said.
"Shandon was struggling a little bit and wasn't feeling good, it's
my job to come off the bench and give guys minutes.

Game notes
Dikembe Mutombo, out since March 3 after undergoing minor
abdominal surgery, could practice Tuesday. ... Kurt Thomas had just
six points and three rebounds in 37 minutes. He came into the game
averaging only 9.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 10 games since
signing a three-year contract extension. ... Portland would lose
tiebreakers to Denver (lost season series) and Utah (worse
conference record) if the Blazers finished tied with either team
for eighth place. New York is assured of winning tiebreakers
against Miami, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto and would lose the
tiebreaker with Cleveland.