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Knicks avoid 60-loss season, beat Nets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- With little fanfare and nothing to
say about either his future or his stomach problem, Larry Brown
returned to coaching on Wednesday night.

Brown, who missed the previous three games with a stomach
ailment, let Herb Williams do much of the work in the season finale
at the Continental Airlines Arena. The Knicks avoided their first
60-loss season with a 90-83 win over the Atlantic Division champion
New Jersey Nets.

"He was giving his input whenever needed, and telling me
certain things to do," Williams said. "But for the most part he
let me run the show."

Brown did not speak with the media either before or after the
game. He was escorted out of the arena by security personnel and
members of the Knicks' public relations staff.

Williams said team doctors advised the 65-year-old Brown not to
stand too much during the game because of his problem with acid
reflux.

"He seemed OK to me, but he was sitting down for the most
part," Williams said.

Nate Robinson said it was obvious Brown was back as the Knicks
(23-59) snapped a five-game losing streak and won for only the
fourth time in 18 games.

"On the side you could hear him yelling your name a lot,"
Robinson said.

The Nets (49-33) were an accommodating host for Brown, giving
starters Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Nenad Krstic the night off,
while playing Richard Jefferson only 18 minutes.

New Jersey will open the playoffs at home against Indiana on
Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT. The Pacers clinched the No. 6 seed in the
Eastern Conference on Wednesday with an 89-83 win over the Orlando
Magic.

"Indiana is a very talented team," said Kidd, who has gotten
the last two nights off. "We respect those guys. They have a lot
of talent over there. In my mind, they're not a sixth seed. They
are one of the top teams in the East. We're going to have to play
our best to beat those guys."

Indiana beat New Jersey 2-1 in the season series.

Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 23 points and 11 assists.
Eddy Curry added 18 points and Robinson added 15, including two
late 3-pointers that put away the game.

Jacque Vaughn had 15 points and Jefferson 13 for the Nets, who
made Williams and Brown sweat a little to avoid the record 60th
loss by cutting a 19-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter.

Brown's status for the game was kept a secret until just before
the tip-off. He attended the morning shootaround in Greenburgh,
N.Y., but Williams ran it. Brown arrived at the arena a couple of
hours before the 7:30 p.m. EDT start.

However, the Knicks never indicated whether Brown would coach.
About 90 minutes before the game, Williams said he didn't know
whether he or Brown would coach.

Brown answered the question himself around 7:32 p.m., walking
onto the court in a dark suit. He smiled and greeted Carter with a
handshake and a hug.

The crowd seemed oblivious when Brown was introduced as the
Knicks coach a couple of minutes later, but that's how this season
has gone for New York.

Brown and the Detroit Pistons parted ways after last season and
he signed a five-year, $50 million contract to coach the Knicks. It
has been an embarrassing season for New York, which has rarely
played well as a team.

The 59 losses ties a Knicks' single-season record, the last time
in 1985-86.

Brown's all-time worst season as an NBA coach came in 1988-89,
when the San Antonio Spurs posted a 21-61 record.

The highlight of the meaningless game was a spectacular
alley-oop, fast-break dunk by Robinson with 6:40 left in the third
quarter. The NBA's dunk champion caught a pass from Crawford and
slammed it home, hanging on the rim for several seconds. It earned
him a technical foul.

Game notes
Nets F Clifford Robinson played in his 1,310 game, taking
over seventh place on the NBA's career games played list from Moses
Malone. ...The win snapped the Nets' six-game winning streak
against the Knicks. It was only New York's fourth win in 22 games
against its cross-river rivals.