NEW YORK -- Most in the locker room agreed afterward that it was one of the best recent efforts from the Washington Bullets. ** They executed on offense, had an edge on the boards and were within four points early in the fourth quarter.
But when it was over, the Bullets were on the familiar end of a 102-84 decision to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
And with the loss, the Bullets (8-20) finished December with two wins in 16 games, including a 10-game losing streak.
Unseld was asked after the game whether he was happy the month was over.
"I haven't looked at the schedule for January," said Unseld, whose team started December with a promising 6-6 record. "But I don't think it'll be any kinder."
But the results can't get any worse for a Washington team that on consecutive nights has lost to the teams that allow the most and the fewest points in the NBA. The outcome against Sacramento and the Knicks was the same -- Washington was unable to crack 100 points. It's nothing new. The Bullets have failed to reach the century mark in nine straight games.
just seems that our lack of experience at critical times has hurt us," said Tom Gugliotta, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. "We just have to take these next few days off and regroup."
Perhaps a more experienced team would have taken advantage of a spurt at the start of the fourth quarter that drew the Bullets to within 76-72 on Rex Chapman's three-pointer.
The Bullets guard scored seven points in the first 3:08 of the fourth quarter and appeared to be on one of those rolls that would allow Washington to steal a game.
But enter Knicks guard John Starks, whose defensive play gave even Michael Jordan fits last season. Starks' defense through a maze of screens smothered Chapman, who scored just two points the rest of the game.
"We were having success with this one play and they had to change their rotation a bit," Chapman said.
Washington scored just four field goals after Chapman's three-pointer. New York outscored Washington 26-12 the rest of the way.
It was a big win for the Knicks, who had lost three of their past five going in. After an impressive 7-0 start, New York is 11-7 since.
Starks' 29 points led five New York players in double figures. Patrick Ewing had 24 and Charles Oakley 16 (with 10 rebounds). Even Greg Anthony, a 32.3 percent shooter going in, hit seven of his 12 shots.
"I thought Greg was simply outstanding as a floor leader," said New York coach Pat Riley. "This was a good game for us and a good win."
The Bullets, who never led in the game and trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, were led by Chapman's 25 points. Nine first-quarter turnovers helped put the Bullets in a hole.
A positive for Washington was the production from the center position where Pervis Ellison, making his third straight start, scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Ellison's first two starts came with Kevin Duckworth slowed by the flu, but the former Portland Trail Blazer said he was fine last night.
"I still want to see [Ellison] jump," Unseld said. "He only had one rebound. Not to take anything away from his effort, but that's what I want to see from him."
Ellison, his knees wrapped in ice after the game, agreed there's room for improvement.
"It's getting better every game," said Ellison, who missed early games after surgery on both knees. "They're starting to feel pretty good."
As a team, the Bullets are a long way from feeling good. And as the slide continues Unseld appears to be more and more bothered by media inquiries about his frustration with this team and the possibility that he will step down because of it.
"It doesn't get frustrating to me," he said. "My job changes every night."
Unfortunately the results haven't. And once again the Bullets are faced with a holiday break in which to reflect on what went wrong.
"We just don't seem to have the stamina to get over the hump," Chapman said. "Everybody just needs a couple of days off."
NOTES: The Knicks, already saddled with injuries, lost Tony Campbell (sore left foot) and Anthony Mason (sprained left ankle) in the first half. . . . Washington has lost 12 of its last 13 to New York. . . Michael Adams tied a season high with 11 assists.