NEW YORK -- For Washington Bullets guard Rex Chapman, the fact that his team had played the Atlantic Division champion New York Knicks tough last night was meaningless. To him, the final score -- New York 103, Washington 90 -- told the only story that counted.
"I don't think we get any moral victories out of this," Chapman said, soaking his left ankle in ice afterward. "If we play at the top of our game we've proven we can beat anybody."
Maybe that's a bit of wishful thinking on the part of Chapman, after the Bullets lost their third straight before a sellout crowd of 19,763 at Madison Square Garden. The win gave the Knicks a sweep of the five games between the teams this season.
The win improved New York's record to 54-23, and kept the Knicks tied with the Atlanta Hawks for best record in the Eastern Conference.
It wasn't until the final quarter that the Knicks were able to put the game away, riding the strength of a 12-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 91-80 lead after a layup by Anthony Mason with 6:46 left.
Unlike Thursday, when the Bullets were within a point into the final minute, Washington was never able to draw closer than five points.
"I think we played as hard as we could play," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said, echoing his comments from the night before. "They went to the bench and got some help. We just couldn't stop it."
Help for New York last night came in the form of Herb Williams, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in 17 minutes.
A backup to Patrick Ewing, Williams didn't even play in Thursday's game. But with Charles Smith having been ejected after arguing with an official midway through the second quarter, Williams played and scored six of his points in the crucial fourth quarter.
"There was a point in the third quarter when we just didn't get to the offensive boards," New York coach Pat Riley said. "I wanted to get bigger. I have great confidence in Herb, and I think he played a very good game for us."
The play of Williams provided a dilemma for the Bullets.
"The only way we could stop him was to double," Unseld said. "You don't want to be in a position where you're doubling Herb Williams."
While the Bullets had a hard time stopping the New York front line, the Knicks were able to put the clamps on Chapman over the final 12 minutes.
Chapman scored 27 points from all angles the first three quarters, but in the fourth he was limited to a meaningless free throw with 1:37 left, finishing with 28 points.
"They knew the play we were running and started rotating better," Chapman said. "They played a little tighter defense. They just wore us down."
Particularly the Washington forwards, as Tom Gugliotta scored just nine points (he had 10 rebounds) and Don MacLean had eight. Center Kevin Duckworth had one of his better outings, recording a double double (13 points, 10 rebounds). But he fouled out in the fourth quarter, marking the third time this season he was not available to finish a game against New York (Duckworth was ejected in two earlier games, including Thursday's).
With Greg Anthony providing two three-pointers, the Knicks began the second quarter with an 8-0 run to take their biggest lead of the half, 39-29.
Chapman had 17 points by halftime, and the Bullets trailed by just 55-54. New York's lead was one point at the end of three, 77-76, but the Knicks were able to open the game up in the fourth.