Riley looks for more efficient Bullets reunion

January 31, 1992|By Gary Binford | Gary Binford,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- Coach Pat Riley did not see everything he wanted Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden when the New York Knicks played the Washington Bullets following their four-game road swing.

The Knicks did not execute as if they were happy to be home. They did not overwhelm an undermanned opponent.

If he had to put a number on it, Riley said the team played at 70 percent efficiency. But still, that produced the desired result, a 101-89 win.

This factor did not go unnoticed, considering the Knicks are capable of losing to any team when they don't play well.

"I don't think we played very well, but we got the win," Riley said. "That's what it's all about. I think it's important when you can play poorly and win."

Riley is looking for more when the Knicks, winners of four straight, complete their home-and-home series against the Bullets tonight (7:30, HTS) at the Capital Centre.

The Knicks (27-15) just couldn't put it in high gear coming off a successful 3-1 road trip that ended with wins over the Warriors, Clippers and Jazz. After the Knicks ended the Jazz's 17-game home winning streak Monday night, the club made the long trip home and had little time to concentrate on the Bullets.

The effort was there, but the emotion wasn't.

"I thought that was it more than anything else," Riley said. "Those three games we won on the road . . . even though we were fresh physically [against the Bullets], mentally we were a bit flat and that happens in this game. At least we didn't get to the point where you could lose a game like this."

The Knicks got much-needed production from several unlikely sources. Shooting guard Gerald Wilkins, who had averaged only 9.3 points on 36 percent shooting in his previous three games, scored a team-high 22 points. His points were essential on a night in which guards Mark Jackson, John Starks and Greg Anthony combined for only 14 points on 5-for-21 from the floor.

Then there was Kiki Vandeweghe, who was a force in the final quarter, scoring nine of his 14 points.

Finally, Charles Oakley made the most of his seven shots, converting on five for 13 points. The Knicks' big forward also had five assists and corralled 18 rebounds, eight offensive, after grabbing only 20 during his three previous games.

Oakley's three-point play gave the Knicks their first double-figure lead, at 54-44, with 4.4 seconds remaining in the opening half. His long jumper in the third quarter got the Knicks back to a double-figure lead for good, at 73-63.

"It's just another day at the office for me," Oakley said. "Some nights you get lucky and you get the big numbers. But you can't get them every night. Just go out and play hard and make things happen."

NOTES: The Knicks, who have allowed 87.3 ppg during their last three games, are 19-5 when holding the opposition under 100 points . . . The Knicks have been board monsters in their last eight games, averaging 47.8 rebounds to the opposition's 37 . . . The Knicks are 2-0 and have won the last four from Wes Unseld's club, which has lost its last seven games.

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