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It might have been a different game had Patrick Ewing not gotten into early foul trouble.

The Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of Ewing's foul trouble and beat the New York Knicks 115-104 in the only NBA game played Sunday night."I can't really fault the effort," Knicks Coach Stu Jackson said. "I thought we had a good effort under tough circumstances. We just couldn't come up with the big play to push us over the hump.

"They (the Lakers) played well, but we leave here knowing we can play with these people."

Foul trouble limited Ewing to just 30 minutes. He finished with a game-high 29 points despite sitting out the last 11 minutes of the first half with three fouls. Ewing then launched a fourth-quarter assault that fell short.

"He's having one of those MVP years," said Magic Johnson, who had 20 points and 11 assists for the Lakers. "I've never seen him like this. Last year was a great year for him, but this year is better than that."

Ewing is second in the NBA in scoring, behind only three-time scoring leader Michael Jordan of Chicago.

"He's doing it two different ways, inside and outside," Johnson said of Ewing. "That turnaround jumper is deadly, and then they get him in the post for that nice hook shot. He's under control, he passes the ball out well when he's double-teamed - he's doing it all."

The Knicks' second unit provided solid relief until Ewing came back.

"They did an outstanding job," Ewing said. "They kept it to six points going into the half. Everybody is contributing. Everybody's been rebounding, running, basically doing the things that we need to do to win. They're not just relying on me."

Ewing scored New York's first nine points of the fourth quarter, including a short hook in the lane that reduced a six-point deficit to 89-88 with 9:35 to play. But that was as close as the Knicks came. Ewing picked up two more fouls as the Lakers used a 13-5 run in the last six minutes to build a 110-98 cushion. Johnson capped the rally with a 3-point shot and a 20-footer in a 36-second span.

"It's a 48-minute game," Johnson said. "They're going to have a hot streak, but we just came back in the fourth quarter with our own. We moved the ball better and moved bodies better than we did against Detroit, and everybody shot the ball when they had the shot. That was the difference."

"The Lakers are the cream of the crop. We definitely knew that this was going to be a tough game," the Knicks' Gerald Wilkins said. "They have great players and they know how to dictate a game."

But, said teammate Mark Jackson: "We now know we can play with them. This game had a `W' written all over it. We could have easily won this game."

The Lakers shrugged off a run of 15 straight points by the Knicks en route to an 82-79 lead after three quarters. New York snapped a 64-64 tie on two free throws each by Kenny Walker and Charles Oakley before the Lakers responded with the next nine points to pull ahead 74-68 with 2:15 left.

James Worthy scored 22 points for the Lakers, whose 12-3 record is the NBA's best.

Worthy scored 17 points and backup center Vlade Divac added 11 points and eight rebounds to help the Lakers take a 58-53 halftime lead en route to their ninth victory in the last 11 meetings with the Knicks.

New York trailed 36-29 when Ewing went to the bench with his third foul on an offensive charge with 11:02 left in the second period. But Walker and Eddie Wilkins combined for 14 points during Ewing's absence, keying a 14-4 New York rally.