Not since he was winning the Heisman Trophy had Charlie Ward felt this good.
Ward made seven 3-pointers, tying the most in the NBA this season, and scored a career-high 25 points as the New York Knicks enjoyed a rare laugher Monday night by beating the Dallas Mavericks 107-82.
"You always dream of having games where you feel like you can't miss," said Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for Florida State in 1993. "I've felt like that in football before hitting every target, being in a groove so it was good to have one of those in basketball."
Ward scored 17 points in the third quarter alone, going 5-for-5 from behind the arc, to nearly match his previous career high of 19 set in March, 1998, against Portland.
Ward's seven 3-pointers were two shy of the Knicks record of nine by John Starks against Milwaukee in January 1998. Jaren Jackson of San Antonio also had seven 3-pointers in a game this season, doing it against the Mavericks on Nov. 20.
"Obviously that's got to be a little bit of an eye-opener if you're an opposing team," said coach Jeff Van Gundy, who has watched all season as opponents have left the Knicks point guards wide open and dared them to shoot.
Kurt Thomas added 20 points, matching his high since joining the Knicks, in his first game against the Mavericks since leaving them as a free agent prior to the start of last season.
"There was no message, no hard feelings," Thomas said. "They didn't feel I was worth more than a one-year deal, and another team did."
Thomas scored 10 of the Knicks' first 19 points, and a 3-pointer by Ward with 1:35 left in the first quarter gave te Knicks a double-digit lead, 24-14, that they would not relinquish.
Thomas opened the second quarter with a corner jumper to up the lead to 13, and Ward gave New York its first 20-point lead on a driving bank shot that made it 50-30 with 1:47 left before halftime.
The lead grew to 29 on a 3-pointer by Ward five minutes into the third quarter, and it was 77-49 when Thomas checked out for good with 5:04 left.
Ward's fifth and final 3-pointer of the quarter gave New York a 32-point lead, 89-57, with 56 seconds left in the period. Ward finished 8-for-9 from the field, including 7-of-8 from 3-point range.
Michael Finley had 20 points to lead Dallas. Cedric Ceballos shot 3-for-20 off the bench.
"We were awful. This was the worst game we've played," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "It was not a pretty picture. It was a difficult night for everybody."
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