Free throws with :02 left lift Knicks

May 19, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- For nearly a year, Charles Smith has worn the goat horns in New York. The Knicks forward has never lived down his performance against the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of the 1993 series when he missed four layups in the closing seconds.

Last night, teammate Hubert Davis would not succumb when faced with similar Game 5 pressure.

Davis, fouled by Bulls forward Scottie Pippen on a three-point shot attempt, calmly hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left that led the Knicks to an 87-86 win before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. The win gave New York a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal, and a chance to close out the series tomorrow night at Chicago Stadium.

"I knew what I had to do -- and I made the shots," Davis said. "You always dream of making big free throws. I got my chance, and I didn't want to blow it."

The call was not without controversy, leaving Chicago coach Phil Jackson to make one statement before leaving the post-game news conference in a huff.

"That was a great basketball game," Jackson said. "I've seen a lot of games in the NBA, but I've never seen what happened at the end of a game like that."

Jackson didn't stay around long enough to explain what "that" was. But it was obvious he was referring to the call leading up to the two free throws by Davis. Pippen ran hard at Davis, who wound up sprawled on the floor after releasing the ball. Replays showed that contact -- although slight -- was made after the release.

"I saw Scottie make contact with his shooting motion," said referee Hue Hollins, who made the call. "I'm positive there was contact on the shot."

Added referee Darrell Garretson, "A shooter remains a shooter until he regains his balance on the floor . . . . The perception is that referees should put their whistles in their pockets in the last minute. But it all comes down to what is sufficient contact."

And for the Knicks it all came down to a better overall performance than Sunday, when New York committed 21 turnovers in a 95-83 loss. The Bulls were confident going into last night, taking on a New York team that was playing its second complete game without starting point guard Derek Harper. Suspended for two games for fighting, Harper will be in action on Friday.

"It was a good opportunity for us to get a win without them having their starting point guard," Bulls guard Steve Kerr said. "We were close. A play here and there and maybe we get a win. They took care of the ball better tonight."

But Greg Anthony, starting his second straight game, shook off Sunday's six-point, four-turnover performance with a solid 11-point, eight-assist game.

"It's always a better feeling when you get a victory," said Anthony, who was shadowed by Pippen in the final two minutes when New York failed to score a field goal. "We were fortunate to get the opportunities we did. It just feels great to get the victory.'

The Knicks, especially Ewing and Smith, will second that. Ewing scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but almost assumed the goat award from Smith after his two missed free throws. After Davis made his two free throws, Ewing was one of the first players to embrace him.

"After he made those shots I told him 'Way to go, way to bail me out,' " said Ewing, who was scoreless in the second and third quarters. "I wasn't nervous [on his missed free throws]. I went up there calm. I just missed the shots. It was very frustrating."

Smith had to be happy, having faced constant criticism since missing those four shots in Game 5 last year. The media here approached this Game 5 -- the turning point of last year's series -- like it was a seventh game.

"Thank God Game 5's over with -- no more questions," said Smith, who scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. "I haven't been thinking much about last year. I just want to come out and win, no matter how we did it."

Chicago 29 17 25 15 -- 86

New York 26 19 28 14 -- 87

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