MEMPHIS -- Isiah Thomas and the Knicks got off to a good start, despite a rocky finish.
New York blew a 19-point, fourth-quarter lead Wednesday night before beating the Memphis Grizzlies 118-117 in triple-overtime.
"It feels good to get Isiah and the team started right," guard Jamal Crawford said. "(But) we have to learn to finish. We had them down 19. We should have pushed it to 30."
Thomas said the close call wasn't all his team's fault.
"It was nothing we did wrong," he said. "It was everything they did right. They were making shots and taking it to the rim."
Thomas, who is also the team's president, became the coach in June to replace Larry Brown, who was fired after going 23-59 last season.
Knicks owner James Dolan has given Thomas an ultimatum -- show "evident progress" in the team's performance this season or be fired from both jobs.
Thomas said he saw good things in the Memphis game.
"We showed that we have great courage and fight, and we found a way to win," he said. "I have a lot of respect for our guys."
Quentin Richardson made two free throws with 12 seconds left in the third overtime and led New York with 31 points. Crawford had 21 points, Stephon Marbury added 19 and Eddy Curry had 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Richardson had 10 points in the overtimes, while Marbury had seven before fouling out.
"It's real tough, being we played so hard and came back from being down ... It's tough to lose by one after playing so hard," Gay said.
With the Knicks up 108-106, Atkins sent the game into the third overtime with a driving layup with 28 seconds left in the second extra period. Crawford got off a shot before the period ended but it missed.
The Grizzlies missed five of eight free throws in the closing 1:40 of the first overtime, with Miller missing two in the final seconds and Warrick missing the first of two opportunities. But Warrick hit his remaining free throw with 4.9 seconds left to send the game into the second overtime tied at 100.
Crawford fired from the top of the key but his shot fell short.
Memphis came back from the fourth-quarter deficit to force the first overtime when a 3-point attempt by Crawford bounced off the rim at the end of regulation.
After trailing from the half, Memphis took an 89-88 lead with just over a minute to play in regulation on a steal and layup by Gay. Marbury tied the score at 89, hitting the first of two free throws.
Knicks rookie Renaldo Balkman, New York's first-round draft pick, played eight minutes and missed both of his shots from the field.
Besides Gay, who was also a first-round selection, the Grizzlies played rookie Kyle Lowry for 28 minutes after starter Damon Stoudamire was sidelined with leg cramps. Lowry finished with six points and 10 rebounds.
The Knicks were 8-33 on the road last season, so winning at Memphis was a move in the right direction, even though it was a bumpy one.
"It's never pretty on the road. It's always ugly," Thomas said. "I was pleased with the whole team. They gave a gutsy effort. There were some crazy plays at the end and we could have caved in."
- The Knicks won their season opener for the first time in five years.
- Memphis F Pau Gasol watched from the bench in a suit. The All-Star is out after breaking his foot while playing for Spain in the world championships this summer.