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3rd-quarter conclusion hurt Knicks

SAN ANTONIO -- A team that shoots as poorly as the New York Knicks has a small margin for errors. And a couple of small errors cost them big in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.

For the second game in a row, the Knicks shot poorly against the San Antonio Spurs, making just 27 of 82 shots, less than one of every three, in what became an 80-67 victory that left New York down 0-2 in the best-of-7 series.And yet, except for two mistakes in a 2.5-second sequence at the end of the third quarter, the beat-up Knicks might have fared better.

"When you're down men, the margin for error is smaller," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Ours is smaller to begin with."

New York fell behind by 11 points in the third quarter but whittled the Spurs' lead to a manageable 52-49 in the final minute of the period.

A shot clock violation and three straight misses by Marcus Camby, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston prevented New York from moving even closer.

It was typical.

"Obviously, I don't think we played well offensively," Van Gundy said. "In stretches, we missed point-blank shots at the basket."

And then came the fatal errors.

With time running out in the quarter, Sprewell let Sean Elliott get by on the baseline for a layup. Elliott was fouled on his way to the basket, setting up a possible three-point play.

When Elliott missed the foul shot, Camby found himself blocked away from the rebound by Tim Duncan, who grabbed the ball and put it back for a basket.

Camby said his arm was locked up on the play and he was also talking to an official.

"The ball got shot," Camby said. "He was able to sneak in there, grab it and put it back in."

In 2.5 seconds, the Spurs had four points. Suddenly, the manageable three-point deficit was a more daunting seven-point problem. It was not the kind of end to the quarter that the Knicks needed and it proved decisive.

"That was big," Sprewell said. "A four-point play at that time of the game was huge."

"We missed a crucial rebound to take it from five to seven at the end of the third quarter," Van Gundy said. "Those are tough to overcome."

New York, which shot 38 percent (31-for-81) in Game 1, came unglued in the fourth quarter and the Spurs restored the double-digit lead and pulled away for the victory.