But unlike in Game 1, that proved to be Houston's downfall last night.
In Game 1 the Knicks rushed and missed easy shots, shooting 34.1 percent from the field. But last night, they took their time and made the extra pass, which resulted in a balanced attack and a 91-83 win before a sellout crowd of 16,611 at The Summit and evened this series at a game apiece.
It was the third playoff win on the road for New York. Instead of going to Madison Square Garden down 2-0, the Knicks play their next three at home, where they've lost just one playoff game this year.
"The pressure is definitely on us now," Houston guard Vernon Maxwell said after his team lost home-court advantage in a game in which it attempted a finals-record 22 three-pointers. "We've had to bounce back before, and we'll find a way to bounce back this time, too."
To do that, the Rockets will have to find a way to limit the wide-open shot attempts by the Knicks, who shot 52.2 percent from the field and had six players in double figures. John Starks rebounded from his 3-for-18 performance in the first game with 19 points -- including four of four from three-point range -- and had nine assists. Derek Harper had 18 points and seven assists, and Patrick Ewing added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"We spent about 40 minutes in practice [Thursday] just shooting the ball," said Knicks coach Pat Riley, who was upset with his team's shooting performance on Wednesday. "We must have shot the ball 100 to 150 times each."
The Knicks defense was at its usual fourth-quarter high level of intensity and held the Rockets to 18 points on 20 percent shooting. The Rockets hit just five field goals over the last 12 minutes, with Hakeem Olajuwon scoring just four of his 25 points over that time. It all adds up to problems for Houston.
"I felt their defense was the deciding factor in the game," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "It got them the lead after we made a strong run in the fourth quarter."
Houston made the run after trailing 72-65 going into the fourth quarter. The Knicks got sloppy after leading by as many as eight in the third and turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the fourth. The Rockets tied the game at 76 after a three-pointer by Matt Bullard with 7:24 left and took a 79- 76 with 6:32 left after Maxwell scored on a layup and hit a free throw after being fouled by Charles Smith.
But after Maxwell's layup, the Rockets missed their last 11 shots from the field. Still the Rockets were within 84-81 when Harper hit the biggest shot of the game. After Ewing blocked a shot by Olajuwon, Harper hit a three-pointer from the right side with 2:00 left for an 87-81 lead. The Knicks put the game away with a 13-2 run.
"Coach Riley made a good points [Thursday]: Professionals made open shots," Harper said. "We got the open shots and knocked them down."
It was a big game for the New York backcourt, after Starks and Harper combined to shoot six of 28 in Game 1. Last night, they combined for 13 of 22 from the field and 16 assists.
"I felt their guards carried the team pretty much offensively," Maxwell said. "Derek made some big shots down the stretch that helped them."
It was a totally different story for Houston's starting backcourt. Maxwell scored 20 points (eight of 17 from the field) but committed seven of Houston's 16 turnovers. Point guard Kenny Smith had two points in 25 minutes, hitting one of six.
"Our defense is only as good as the pressure we put on the ball," Riley said. "I thought we did a great job with ball pressure on the point, and we got great help and recovered."
The Knicks did a decent job on Olajuwon, who had to work hard for his 25 points. Anthony Mason (13 points in 32 minutes) played a lot of minutes against Olajuwon, leaning heavily on the Houston center, who played 46 of a possible 48 minutes.
"Basically, you want Olajuwon worn out," Mason said. "You don't want him in deep. Hopefully, you can make him take the outside shot."
Baltimore's Sam Cassell was the leading scorer off the Houston bench, getting nine points. But he hit just two of eight shots, and the Houston bench hit four of 18. Carl Herrera, who had 10 points in Game 1, scored two last night.
"I kept our starters in longer than I usually do, and that's the type of situation where you just go with what you feel," Tomjanovich said. "That's what coaching is all about, and those are the tough decisions you have to stick with."
It was the first win of the season for the Knicks against Houston, which had won two regular-season games and the opening game of this series. Last night was the first time that New York had out-rebounded the Rockets this season (39-38).
Now the Knicks return to the friendly confines of the Garden, where they've lost just one game.
"You come in here hoping to win two, but we'll settle for a split," Starks said. "It's important now to take it game by game. It's critical we realize this team will bounce back."
NEW YORK KNICKS vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS (Series tied, 1-1) Results
Gm. 1: Rockets 85, Knicks 78
2: Knicks 91, Rockets 83
Date .. .. .. Site .. ... ..Time
Tomorrow .. ..at New York ..7
Wednesday .. .at New York ..9
Friday .. ... at New York ..9
June 19* .. ..at Houston .. 7
June 22* .. ..at Houston .. 9
TV: All games on chs. 2 and 4