While Patrick Ewing continued to misfire, the New York Knicks found a way to win, thanks to Charles Oakley, Derek Harper and John Starks.
Ewing averaged 23 points and led the Knicks in scoring for 15 of 18 playoff games before the NBA Finals. But he has made just one-third of his 102 shots in the championship series.While he went 8-for-28 Wednesday night; however, his three less-celebrated teammates led the way in the second half as New York defeated Houston 91-82 for a 2-2 tie in the best-of-7 finals.
The Knicks started Game 4 with a 17-2 run as the Rockets missed eight of nine shots and turned the ball over seven times in the first 71/2 minutes. Then New York spent most of the rest of the half squandering the margin before settling for a 40-33 halftime lead.
That set the stage for a brilliant second half by Oakley, Starks and Harper, who each played a vital role despite a Houston rally.
To summarize their performances:
- Oakley scored nine of his 16 points, grabbed 14 of his 20 rebounds and deflected the ball into a teammate's hands four times in the second half. He had nine rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, and his nine offensive rebounds were two more than the entire Houston team managed.
- Starks scored 11 of his 20 points in the final 5:03, hitting two 3-pointers in that span as the Knicks extended a slim lead.
- Harper scored 14 of his 21 points and made four of his five 3-pointers in the second half.
"The supporting cast for Patrick had to step up," said Harper, who has 21 points in each of the last two games.
"It's up to me and Harp to play big," said Starks, who has consecutive 20-point games. "It's the guards that will determine who is going to win. The centers are basically going to neutralize each other. So we have to step up."
Hakeem Olajuwon outscored Ewing 32-16 in Game 4, but Ewing's 15 rebounds, along with Oakley's 20, helped New York outrebound the Rockets 50-33.
"We knew coming into the series that this was the NBA's top rebounding team, and they came out and played like they wanted it more than we did," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "Getting beat 21-7 on the offensive boards, it's amazing that we even had a basketball game."
Harper made five of his 10 3-point attempts and is now 14-for-27 from long range in the series.
"They're giving us a lot of comfortable 3s that let us get in a rhythm," Harper said. "Once you get in a rhythm and the ball is going in for you, you can stroke the ball and not worry about it. The important thing is to make the play."
Much of Oakley's success in the second half came after rugged Houston forward Robert Horry fell hard to the floor after a flagrant foul on Anthony Mason. Horry played just two minutes after the injury late in the third quarter.
"I have a bruised wrist, hand and lower back," Horry said. "Hopefully, everything will loosen up and I'll be able to come back. I'm going to ice it down, then go for X-rays in the morning."
"Oak was all over the place," Knicks coach Pat Riley said. "He dug out some big ones. He's back to his old self. We would not have been in the game without that rebounding."
Oakley's biggest play came with the Knicks nursing a 77-74 lead with less than four minutes remaining. Ewing missed two free throws, but when the rebound bounced toward the sideline, Oakley outfought three Rockets, then saved the ball before it went out of bounds.
The ball was passed around the perimeter to Starks, whose 3-pointer gave New York an 80-74 lead. Olajuwon's four free throws closed Houston to 85-82, but Starks' four free throws and two by Harper sealed the win.
Olajuwon, who scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half and made 14 of 20 shots for the game, said, "I said before the game I would rather score 21 and win than score 50 and lose. This is a classic example of that."