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Hitting game-winning shots at Madison Square Garden is nothing new for Ben Gordon, who dominated in this building so often during high school and college that he was called "Madison Square Gordon."
But doing so in his first NBA game here, with family members, past teammates and coaches looking on and the player he replaced playing in the game, is a whole other level, doing nothing to dispute the theory that Gordon owns the self-dubbed "World's Most Famous Arena."
"Nah," Gordon said, a nonchalant presence in an otherwise wild Bulls locker room. "I just rent it."
Gordon's running, one-handed 8-footer over Michael Sweetney with one-10th of a second left in Monday's matinee put the exclamation point on a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, the Bulls' second over the Knicks in three days.
The 88-86 triumph marked the Bulls' seventh straight victory, spoiled the return of Jamal Crawford, who Gordon essentially replaced, and did nothing to dispute another theory--that this run is for real.
"Our guys are really pumped right now, as any team would be after a win like that," coach Scott Skiles said. "Our two main strengths have been conditioning and chemistry. We're in good shape and the guys are genuinely happy for one another. It's not fake. They battle for each other. That's important."
Equally important is having a 6-foot-2-inch go-to guy in the fourth quarter.
Gordon, who grew up 25 miles away in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., and then starred at nearby Connecticut, struggled for three quarters, mirroring the sluggish effort of his team.
But he scored 13 fourth-quarter points--giving him 27 in the two fourth quarters against the Knicks--as the Bulls overcame a five-point deficit in the final 91 seconds.
"The game was dragging on and I was like, man, I'm playing terrible," Gordon said. "But coach and my teammates believe in me. As soon as coach told us what [the final play] was, I said to one of the assistants, `I'm going to end it.' I always assume it's going in."
Other heroics preceded Gordon's.
The Bulls trailed 48-43 after a dismal first half in which they played shoddy defense and committed 10 turnovers. Only Luol Deng, who led the Bulls with 19 points, got anything going.
Kirk Hinrich, who missed all five of his first-half shots, heated up in the third quarter, scoring 12 of his 14 points to help the Bulls grab a 68-67 lead. Hinrich added a career-high 13 rebounds and eight assists.
But the Knicks, who were led by Stephon Marbury's 25 points, took a 79-74 lead on back-to-back jumpers by Kurt Thomas off Crawford assists.
Crawford had missed 10 straight games with turf toe and was quiet with eight points on 4-for-14 shooting.
"There wasn't pain," the former Bull said. "But it felt like I was in slow motion at times."
That's how the Bulls must have felt after a Gordon turnover led to Marbury beating Hinrich downcourt for a fast-break layup, foul and three-point play. With 3 minutes 33 seconds left, the Knicks led 84-76.
Then Gordon hit a three-pointer, Marbury split two free throws and Gordon scored on a driving layup. Michael Sweetney split two free throws, missing the second after officials called timeout to clean up ice spilled on the court by Greg Anthony's son, Cole, sitting courtside next to Scottie Pippen.
The Knicks are known for wacky things happening during Martin Luther King Jr. matinee games. Marcus Camby once tried to punch Danny Ferry and hit coach Jeff Van Gundy instead. They suffered their worst home loss in franchise history.
Add this finish to the list. Andres Nocioni, shooting 21.6 percent on three-pointers, hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 56.9 seconds left.
"When I shot, everybody probably said, `Chicago lost the game,'" said Nocioni, who had 13 points. "That shot was important for my confidence."
Tyson Chandler, who had 13 rebounds, pressured Thomas into a miss with :36.9 left.
Gordon missed a driving layup with 18.9 seconds left, but Nocioni almost tipped in the miss and then grabbed that rebound as well, two of his 11. The Bulls called timeout.
"That's our last-shot play," Skiles said. "It's not ideal that we got a one-handed runner from the baseline out of it. But he's so gifted."
Gordon, who finished with 17 points, was asked if he calls his go-to shot a runner, a floater or a teardrop jumper.
"I call it a `W,'" he said.