Bulls clobber Knicks to force Game 7 in N.Y.

May 21, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- It was an opportunity for the New York Knicks to make a statement, a chance to end a dynasty and close the door shut on a building where they've experienced little playoff success.

But the three-time defending champion Chicago Bulls, facing elimination for the first time in two years, had other plans. Chicago dominated New York, 93-79, before 18,676 at Chicago Stadium, forcing a seventh game tomorrow in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was the Bulls who made the statement -- that the Knicks' possible road to the finals will not be easy. Chicago, having dominated New York for most of the six games -- including the three road games -- should have a lot of confidence going into the deciding game at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks have to be glad they never have to see the aging Chicago Stadium again -- they've now lost nine straight playoff games here, and 15 of their past 16. And although they have to feel good about playing the final game on their home court, chances are the Knicks will be a tight ballclub as they attempt to defeat the Bulls in a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.

Going into their biggest game of the year, the Knicks played lethargically for most of the night. Even with point guard Derek Harper back in the lineup after his two-game suspension for fighting, New York was never able to establish an offensive flow. Patrick Ewing scored 26 points and John Starks added 18 to lead the Knicks.

Chicago, still hurting over the controversial ending to Game 5 in New York on Wednesday, came through with their most balanced game of the series. Four of the five starters scored in double figures, led by B.J. Armstrong's 20 points.

The Knicks had trailed by as many as 18 points early in the second half, but they cut the deficit to 78-69 in the fourth quarter after a three-point shot by John Starks. Chicago had experienced fourth-quarter woes in the series, failing to score 20 points or more in each of the previous five games.

Chicago would fail once again, but found that scoring 20 wasn't necessary. The Bulls immediately took control of the game, increasing their lead by as many as 18 points on the way to the win. New York coach Pat Riley all but conceded with 3:01 left when he pulled Ewing out of the game with the Knicks trailing by 18.

tTC It was a physical first half in which the Bulls dominated, leading by as many as 19 points with just under two minutes left. But the Knicks were still able to put up a late surge with an 11-2 run over the last 1:38 to trail at the half, 52-41.

The Bulls' fans sensed it was possibly the last game at Chicago Stadium, applauding loudly even through the national anthem. And when Derek Harper, coming off his two-game suspension, entered the game for the first time with 7:09 left in the first quarter the crowd jeered.

It was obvious the Bulls were comfortable in front of the home crowd, taking a 16-7 lead nearly midway through the first half after a short banker by Pete Myers. Chicago would lead by as many as 15 points in the opening quarter, using an attacking style that resulted in 15 trips to the free-throw line. By quarter's end the Bulls, limiting the Knicks to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field, had a 30-17 lead.

It marked the sixth time in this series that the Knicks failed to reach 20 points in a quarter, and it didn't help that Charles Oakley and Charles Smith -- the Knicks' starting forwards -- were scoreless over the first 12 minutes.

As has been the case the entire series, Chicago's bench was able to sustain -- and even build upon -- the lead at the start of the second quarter. With a lineup that included Jo Jo English, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr, the Bulls increased the lead to 38-20 after Kerr's jumper with 8:55 left.

Kerr would provide a later spark. After the Knicks had pulled to within 43-31 after a layup by Ewing, Kerr scored five during a 7-0 Chicago run -- the last points coming on a trey that gave the Bulls their biggest lead of the half, 50-31. The Knicks looked lost and frustrated, with guard John Starks picking up a flagrant foul after tripping Myers with 2:45 left.

But the Bulls seemed to lose their concentration, scoring only two points after Kerr's three-pointer with 1:58 left. Meanwhile, the Knicks scored 11 over the last 1:38 -- including three-pointers by Starks and Greg Anthony.

Chicago, with eight offensive rebounds in the first half, continued to outhustle the Knicks at the start of the third quarter, building leads of as many as 17 points.

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