Knicks hold off Bullets Johnson scores 29 in 105-100 loss

February 03, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- John Starks and Buck Johnson engaged in a wild fourth-quarter shootout at Madison Square Garden last night, but Starks and the New York Knicks walked away winners, over the Washington Bullets.

Johnson, who became a starter two weeks ago on the strength of his defensive skills, finally showed an offensive spark in scoring 29 points on 13-for-17 shooting to lead Washington back from a 16-point deficit in the second half.

But down the stretch, Starks (28 points) was just as hot, hitting jumper after pressure jumper. His last basket put New York ahead, 101-100, with 71 seconds left.

The Knicks then turned up the defensive intensity, holding the Bullets scoreless as Starks and Anthony Mason added the insurance points.

Mason scored 17 points and Patrick Ewing had 16 points and 13 rebounds for New York, which is 18-4 at home this season. Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant finished with 18 points apiece for Washington, now 3-18 on the road.

A three-pointer and 18-footer by Starks gave New York its largest lead, 74-58, with 5:08 left in the third quarter. Grant then scored nine points in a 16-6 run that closed Washington to 80-74 with 38 seconds left.

New York, the Atlantic Division leader at 26-15, rebuilt the margin to 84-74 early in the fourth quarter before missing eight of nine shots. The Bullets then rallied again behind Johnson, whose previous high this season was 12 points.

Johnson started quickly, scoring Washington's first three baskets. But New York countered with three hoops by Starks and a slam dunk by Ewing for a 12-8 lead.

Michael Adams sparked a 7-2 run to push the visitors ahead, 15-14. The lead continued to change hands, with Johnson providing three more baskets to forge a 21-21 tie.

The Bullets led 31-29 after one quarter, hitting 64 percent (14-for-22) of their field-goal attempts. Johnson made six of his seven shots. The Knicks shot 57 percent, with Starks (4-for-6) scoring nine points.

The Knicks, allowing the lowest field-goal percentage in the NBA, trailed 33-29 in the first minute of the second quarter after Washington made 15 of its first 23 shots.

Both coaches turned to their reserves to start the second quarter, and the Knicks subs had a decided advantage. Campbell, Mason and Campbell outscored Washington 18-6 in a five-minute stretch for a 47-37 cushion.

The Knicks continued to execute their offense flawlessly, getting high-percentage shots to boost their advantage to 54-43. They maintained this bulge the rest of the quarter to hold a 58-47 lead at halftime.

The Bullets managed only 16 points in the second quarter, hitting five of 18 shots. Grant and Tom Gugliotta shot a combined 4-for-12 in the first half.

Things quickly got worse for Washington in the third quarter. With Starks finding the range from outside, New York's margin ballooned to 74-58.

Washington showed a bit of life, with Ellison starting and ending a 6-0 spurt. When Johnson scored on a spin move and Grant made a free throw and two jumpers, the deficit had been cut to 76-70.

After Ewing ended this spurt, Grant hit another jumper, but was hammered by Mason. The foul went undetected, but Grant limped off the floor during a timeout.

The third quarter ended with New York leading 82-74.

The Bullets defense turned aggressive in the fourth quarter, forcing the Knicks to shoot consecutive air balls.

Johnson continued to carry the offense, scoring five points to reduce the spread to 84-81. The Knicks fans began to get nervous when Brent Price hit a jumper and Johnson made a leaner in the lane to pull even at 85.

Doc Rivers untied it with a drive through the key only to have Johnson counter with his 12th basket. Washington finally got the lead, 92-89, on a three-point play by Ellison with 5:50 left.

Leading 93-90, the Bullets committed two straight turnovers. Starks' jumper made it a one-point game when Unseld rushed Grant and Adams back into the lineup.

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