NEW YORK — Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew was looking for a way to spark up his team, and lashed out at them for their lack of energy at the start of games after losing at home to Boston and the next day at New Jersey.
"It's called corrective criticism. I'm going to challenge our team every single game we play," Drew said. "We're going to have some nights when we can't put it in the ocean, can't make a shot. (But) there should never be an excuse why we can't come out every single night and play with a high level of energy."
The message must have gotten across.
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead before holding off New York 99-90 on Saturday, snapping the Knicks' five-game winning streak. Atlanta has now won two straight since a modest three-game skid.
Former Knicks guard Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 21 points off the bench and was helped out by 17 points and nine rebounds from Al Horford, and 14 points from Mike Bibby. Josh Smith added Marvin Williams had 13 each for the Hawks.
Crawford, who was on the last Knicks team that won sixth straight during the 2006 season, entered the game with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter and gave Atlanta a 24-14 lead with a jumper. He then stole the ball from Raymond Felton and immediately hit a 3-pointer, then moments later scored on a layup.
"It's always fun to come back here," said Crawford, who spent four-plus seasons playing at Madison Square Garden. "After spending most of my career here, it always feels good to come back. To be able to be victorious against a team that's been playing great — they won five in a row — we were aware of that. It's just fun to come out and get a win."
The Knicks started off slow in the first half, making just 15 of 37 shots from the field, although Amar'e Stoudemire got to the foul line and scored 12 of his 24 points in the half.
"We had no energy from the start. With these early games, sometimes it happens that way," said Stoudemire, who had 10 rebounds for his sixth 20-10 effort of the season. "We can't make excuses. We have to be mentally ready for these early games and we were not."
New York trailed by 18 at the half and got within four in the fourth quarter on a driving lay-up by Wilson Chandler and a free throw after the score. The Hawks then reeled off seven straight points on a 3-pointer by Crawford, a hook shot by Horford, and a turnaround jumper by Horford that made it 82-71 with 9:35 left.
"The energy was there. That's the consistency I've always talked about so that we can be a better team," Horford said. "We knew they were going to come back and get in the game. I think what was key for us was that we remained calm.
We kept playing, kept defending and we were able to close out the game at the end."
New York forward Ronny Turiaf left after the first half with a sore left knee and didn't return. He said simply, "I don't know," when asked about his ailing knee.
Raymond Felton added 18 points and rookie Landry Fields had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"Everybody has slip ups and we had a slip up. We are not satisfied with it but it happens," Felton said.
NOTES: Maurice Evans had 10 points off the bench for Atlanta, which is an Eastern Conference-best 6-2 on the road this season. ... Larry Brown was the coach for the Knicks when they last won sixth straight from Jan. 2-13, 2006. ... The Knicks are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-back sets. ... Stoudemire twisted his ankle in third quarter when he got tangled up with Smith but said he will "play through it" although he had twisted it in a prior game.