Pounding his chest, tugging his jersey and literally carrying the Atlanta Hawks on his back, Isaiah Rider seems worth all the trouble he caused earlier in the season.
Rider equaled his season high with 32 points and took control in the second half, pulling the Hawks from a 15-point deficit to a 110-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings last night in Atlanta.
"I don't care what they say about Isaiah Rider," said Sacramento's Nick Anderson. "I don't care if he never comes to practice. If he continues to play like that, they're going to win a lot of games."
Rider has been on his best behavior since a one-game suspension Nov. 16 for missing practice, averaging 23.3 points in the last eight games. He had 13 points in a 21-8 run to close the third quarter, giving the Hawks an 84-83 lead heading to the final period when he converted a three-point play with 23.7 seconds remaining.
"I've never been shy," said Rider, who hit 13 of 30 shots, dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds. "That's why I'm one of the better players in this league."
After the Kings scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter, Rider hit a three-pointer to ignite a 10-0 run. Finally, he came up with a steal in the final minute to thwart any hope of a comeback by Sacramento, the second straight division leader to fall to the Hawks.
"We started out really sluggish," Rider said. "I take some of the blame for that. I came out and kind of flat-lined it. . . . But I told myself there was a lot of time left. When I take over, good things happen."
* SPURS 96, NETS 94: Tim Duncan had 26 points and five blocked shots, including a rejection of Stephon Marbury's potential game-tying layup with two seconds left as San Antonio edged host New Jersey. The Spurs won their seventh in a row.
"He was guarding the ball and got beat, but he stayed in the play and continued to chase it," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. "A lot of guys would have just stopped, but his ability to stay in the play and understand that saved us a basketball game."
* KNICKS 84, BUCKS 80: Allan Houston had 25 points and Latrell Sprewell 23 as New York beat host Milwaukee. Marcus Camby, who has missed a number of games with tendinitis in his left knee, added 13 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes for New York.
"You can imagine what he can give us when he's completely healthy," Sprewell said.
* MAGIC 103, TIMBERWOLVES 93: In Minneapolis, rookie point guard Chucky Atkins scored a season-high 18 points in a reserve role.
* MAVERICKS 101, BULLS 95: In Chicago, Michael Finley scored 30 points to help hand the Bulls (1-13) their eighth straight loss.
* ROCKETS 109, CLIPPERS 96: Shandon Anderson scored a career-high 27 points as visiting Houston ended a record-tying stretch of three overtime games with a win in regulation.
* SUPERSONICS 117, WARRIORS 108: In Oakland, Calif., Vin Baker scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Gary Payton added 27 points for Seattle.
CAPTION: To get out of arms' way, Keith Van Horn puts it in reverse. Spurs beat Nets, 96-94, to win 7th straight.