LANDOVER -- It was a night when the Washington Bullets were beaten on and banged up by a physical New York Knicks team. It was also a night when the Bullets were held to a season-low shooting percentage and tied a season low for points in a quarter.
So, exactly what did the battered and bruised Bullets feel about the Knicks after last night's 92-80 loss?
"The question of the day is what can be do to be like them?" Bullets forward Chris Webber said when it was over. "I don't know the answer."
When the Bullets do find the answer, maybe they can end the domination the Knicks have had over them in recent years. With last night's victory, the Knicks have won 18 of the past 19 games between the two teams -- and 24 of the last 26. The Bullets lost their second straight, with their record dropping to 15-15.
After playing the Knicks even for the first quarter, the Bullets were unable to overcome a second quarter in which the team scored 12 points. For the game, Washington was held to a season-low 33.8 percent shooting, a major step backward for a team that entered the night seventh in the league (46.6 percent).
Juwan Howard, who scored just four points in the Bullets' loss Dec. 10 at New York, had 16 last night -- but was just five of 19 from the field. Webber had 19 points and 17 rebounds -- but was just eight of 19. Add a three-for-11 performance from point guard Rod Strickland, and the Bullets' top three scorers shot a combined 16 of 49 (32.6 percent).
"Their defense was very good, and that's a little frustrating, because our defense was very good," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We made a couple of runs late, but we were never able to sustain anything. When you get opportunities, you have to take advantage of them."
What Lynam was referring to was a switching and trapping defense that at times allows openings -- but very briefly. When the Bullets had those openings, they were unable to connect; the team made just two of 13 from three-point range.
"They put pressure on you to make the open shots because they press so well," Lynam said. "We just missed. We had trouble getting into any type of flow all night."
Part of that might have been the constant banging, pushing and shoving the Knicks are still known for. That part of their game was evident in the first quarter when Webber, appearing to have an open path to the basket for an easy dunk, was instead hammered to the floor by Knicks point guard Chris Childs. For a moment, Webber appeared ready to go after Childs but after a couple of quick steps thought better of it.
"Physical play is good. It's part of ball," Webber said. "The thing about physical play is that teams are slow. We just weren't able to take advantage of that."
Just ask Strickland who, on a lot of his misses, appeared to get hammered in the lane. But on this night, Strickland would get few calls, and at one point after he thought he was fouled, he slammed the ball down in frustration.
"They got a few more calls out there -- that's not an excuse, that's a fact," Strickland said. "But they're a great defensive team. They did a good job. They just beat us."
And the Knicks never allowed the Bullets to get comfortable with their inside play, with New York center Patrick Ewing doing TC good job patrolling the middle. Ewing matched a season high with seven blocks, to go with 22 points and 12 rebounds. After trailing by 13 in the third quarter the Bullets got to within six going into the final quarter. But there was never any sense that Washington was in the game.
If any positives came out of the game for the Bullets, one was that Lorenzo Williams suited up for the first time this season and played fairly well in his nine minutes -- all in the first half. And Calbert Cheaney, after going scoreless against Charlotte on Monday, looked aggressive in scoring 12 points.
But the positives were few as New York continued its dominance of the Bullets.
"We just couldn't get the job done," Howard said. "Give them the credit for that. They're a good, solid team."
NOTE: Webber suffered a sprained right index finger during the game. X-rays were negative.
Pub Date: 1/03/97