NEW YORK -- At last, something for Isiah Thomas and the Knicks to celebrate.
After an embarrassing offseason followed by a loss at Cleveland in their opener, the Knicks were finally winners again thanks to Crawford, who keyed the stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter that allowed New York to build enough of a cushion for the final minutes.
"It's always good to win your home opener, and for us here in New York we struggled last year at the start of the season at home," Thomas said. "It's good to come out and win the first game and our fans were great tonight. They were very supportive and they wanted to see a good basketball game, and I thought they saw one."
Zach Randolph added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who had lost five straight home openers since beating Washington on Oct. 30, 2001. Stephon Marbury added 17 points and seven assists, and David Lee scored 14 points.
Despite the organization's tumultuous offseason, the Knicks were greeted with a supportive sellout crowd. Thomas received a loud, mixed reception during pregame introductions.
Thomas and Madison Square Garden were found last month to have sexually harassed a former team executive after a trial that embarrassed the organization, and they've been dealing with the fallout ever since. Thomas has had to defend his reputation after he was accused of using profanity toward women and about the team's season ticket holders.
Al Sharpton had threatened to lead protests at Knicks home games, a possibility that remained until Saturday, when he announced at a joint press conference with Thomas that he was satisfied with the Knicks coach's stance on derogatory language toward women.
All seemed forgiven once the game started, with fans not even booing when the Knicks quickly fell behind by double digits, as they had in recent home openers.
"I think this is a game we definitely wanted to win, no matter who we were playing here," center Eddy Curry said. "Being that it was the first time that our crowd got to see us when the games counted and we just wanted to show them we're a different team. We're going to play hard for 48 minutes."
Ryan Gomes scored 19 points for the Timberwolves, who fell to 0-2 in their first season since trading longtime star Kevin Garnett to Boston over the summer. The Wolves had won four in a row and 10 of 12 against New York.
Al Jefferson, also acquired in the Garnett deal, added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which pushed Denver into the fourth quarter of its opener before losing 99-91.
"You look at the game, we were right there at the end in this game and the game before," Gomes said. "The last five minutes we didn't convert on some easy baskets. They got a few leak outs. Crawford hit some big shots. I think we're confident where we are but of course you want to win at the end."
The game was tied at 81 with 7 minutes left before Crawford's jumper gave New York the lead for good. After two free throws by Marbury, Crawford made a pair, then he made another jumper for an 89-81 lead with 5:18 remaining.
"In the past I've always been the guy that kind of guys start saying 'Come on, Jamal, it's time to step up,"' Crawford said. "So I take pride in that."
Minnesota twice pulled within three and had a chance to tie after calling timeout with 11 seconds left. But Antoine Walker missed a 3-point attempt and Randolph made a clinching free throw with 2.2 seconds to play.
The Wolves started quickly, shooting 59 percent and leading by as many as 10 in the first quarter before settling for a 28-21 advantage. The Knicks turned things around with a sizzling second quarter, shooting 12-of-14 (86 percent) in a 33-point period that sent them to halftime ahead 54-50.
New York opened a four-game homestand. The Knicks host Denver on Tuesday night in the first meeting between the teams since last year's brawl at Madison Square Garden that led to seven suspensions, including a 15-game penalty for Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who led the NBA in scoring at the time.
- Thomas and Minnesota coach Randy Wittman, college teammates for two years at Indiana, shared a pregame hug and chat. Wittman didn't want to comment much about Thomas' problems, other than to say he had offered his support. "I'm here as a friend. I haven't seen him in a while and that's kind of all I'm going to indulge in," Wittman said. "He's going through some tough times, absolutely, and I just told him he could pick up the phone at any time and call me."
- The NBA players weren't the only good athletes at MSG. New York marathon champions Paula Radcliffe and Martin Lel were at the game, as was welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, who takes on Shane Mosley here Saturday.