And Patrick Ewing came through, hitting two long jumpers over the last three minutes -- each of which gave the Knicks a lead.
Had the Knicks won, Ewing may have been considered a hero. But the Knicks wound up losing, falling behind 2-1 to the Houston Rockets in the best-of-seven series. And Ewing wound up answering questions about his poor shooting for most of the game.
Twenty-nine shots, 20 misses. Those were Ewing's numbers in the 93-89 loss that cost the Knicks the home-court advantage and turns tonight's Game 4 at Madison Square Garden into a pivotal game for the Knicks. Through three games Ewing is shooting just 35.1 percent against the Rockets.
"The last couple of games I think I've been hesitating too much, [tonight] I'm not going to hesitate," Ewing said after yesterday's practice. "I'm just going to take the shots, every good shot that presents itself."
Unfortunately for the Knicks, Ewing is taking most of his shots from spots normally occupied by guards. Ewing is a perimeter shooter by nature, and has become even more so against Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, the league's best de- fensive player.
The result: The Knicks' low-post options were left to the struggling Charles Smith and reserve forward Anthony Mason.
"If we're going to take those shots, we've got to knock them down," Ewing said of the jump shots. "I had a lot of shots and didn't knock them down. I think come [tonight] those shots are going to fall."
The Knicks better hit those shots early. Their cold shooting helped Houston race out to a 16-point first-half lead. In Game 7 of the conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks also fell behind early.
"I think we just have to come out with a little bit more intensity," Ewing said. "We've been coming out flat in the beginning of the game and letting teams get big leads on us. We make a good effort at coming back, playing good defense, but we can't [keep] getting down."
That defense, particularly in the fourth quarter, had helped the Knicks get back into Game 1 (also a loss) and helped hold the Rockets off in the Game 2 win. But in Game 3, the Rockets scored 24 fourth-quarter points, with four of their last five baskets coming on layups or dunks.
"We could not stop them on three possessions in a row," said Knicks coach Pat Riley. "And on all three
possessions we didn't do what we were supposed to do."
Although no one's calling it a must game, Riley realizes the importance and may make a change to help jump-start his team's offense. Second-year guard Hubert Davis has been ineffective coming off New York's bench, hitting just one field goal in 27 minutes. That may open the door for veteran guard Rolando Blackman, a solid perimeter shooter who has not played in this series.
"We've gotten to this point with these guys, and you can't expect most people who haven't played much the whole year to step in at this point," Riley said. "I know what Rolando can do, but we'll have to wait and see.
"We've got two more games at home [tonight and Friday] and right now our objective is to get to the point where we would play for the title on Sunday. We want to go [to Houston] with the lead," he said.
NEW YORK KNICKS vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS (Rockets lead series, 2-1) Results Gm. 1: Rockets 85, Knicks 78
Gm. 2: Knicks 91, Rockets 83
Gm. 3: Houston 93, New York 89
Schedule Date .. .. Site .. .. .. .. Time
Today . .. at New York . .. 9
Friday ... at New York . .. 9
Sunday* .. at Houston .. .. 7
June 22* . at Houston .. .. 9
TV: All games on chs. 2 and 4