DENVER -- Isiah Thomas was sauntering out of the Pepsi Center, relishing Jamal Crawford's big fourth quarter and the New York Knicks' improbable 109-107 comeback win over the Denver Nuggets when he heard the latest bad news on Kenyon Martin.
The Nuggets' hard-luck big man needs another knee operation, this time on his "good" knee.
"Oh, no. If he's down, I'll miss him," the Knicks coach said. "He's one of the great guys in this league and he's one of the true competitors in this league. He's definitely one of my favorite players that I like to watch. I don't like coaching against him because when he was with the Nets, I never could beat him."
With that, Thomas' smile was gone as he left the arena.
Martin was taped up and ready to play when a team doctor sent him instead for tests on his swollen right knee that revealed loose cartilage. He'll learn Thursday when he'll have the surgery and how long he might be out.
Martin was confounded by his latest knee injury. He was limited to a career-low 56 games last year after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee and said just Wednesday morning during the shootaround that he felt he had finally put that behind him.
"I was scheduled to play. I was taped and everything. The doc came in and looked at me and told me I needed to get an MRI," said a somber Martin after the game.
He has no idea how or when he was injured, either.
"That's the most frustrating thing," Martin said. "I have no clue. None whatsoever. How I did it or what day I did it."
All he knows is it started hurting this week and that he'll be sidelined again. For how long, nobody knows.
"I won't be out the entire season, but I have no idea at this point," he said.
His teammates nearly won without him, but for the third consecutive game blew a big fourth-quarter lead.
Crawford stole the ball from Eduardo Najera, who was subbing for Martin, and made a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left for the game winner.
Crawford, himself subbing for Steve Francis (ankle), scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, when the Knicks erased a 12-point deficit to overcome Carmelo Anthony's 37-point performance.
With the game tied at 106-all, Nuggets guard J.R. Smith stole the ball from Crawford and passed it to Najera, who tried to throw the ball downcourt. Crawford blocked it, retrieved it and swished a long 3.
"I didn't like the turnover," Thomas said. "But the shot I loved."
"You don't have time to think about the mistake," Crawford said. "If you do that Carmelo gets a lay-in and it's over. You have to do what you have to do to get that steal back."
Anthony was fouled with 2.9 seconds left on the inbounds after a timeout and sank his first free throw. After another timeout, he intentionally missed his second attempt and Smith swooped in and grabbed the rebound, exactly like it was drawn up, then fired up a bank shot that missed as the buzzer sounded.
"I said to the guys when you play hard, sometimes you get lucky," Thomas said.
Stephon Marbury's 3-pointer tied it at 106 with 44 seconds left, erasing what remained of the Nuggets' 12-point lead with eight minutes left.
The Nuggets' 0-3 mark was compounded by Martin's latest injury.
"Right now I'm at a loss for words, you know what I'm saying? I worked my butt off in training camp. For this to happen now, I'm down in the dumps," Martin told the Associated Press. "But I've dealt with worse, so I've just got to fight through it."
Martin, who averaged 9.5 points and 10 rebounds in Denver's first two games, was replaced by Najera, who scored 12 points.
"I think Martin is irreplaceable," Najera said. "But, combined, all our big guys can do a pretty good job."
The Nuggets led 91-79 with eight minutes remaining when Crawford heated up.
Crawford scored eight consecutive points, on a free throw, a putback on a subsequent missed free throw, a layup and a 3-pointer, and Nate Robinson's breakaway basket pulled New York to 94-92 with six minutes left.
"I was in a rhythm and when you're in a rhythm, you are letting it go," Crawford said.
Cablevision, which owns the Knicks through its Madison Square Garden unit, disclosed Larry Brown's $18.5 million settlement in its third-quarter report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ... The Nuggets have lost seven regular-season games in a row.