The Boston Celtics did what they could to help Larry Bird relax his back spasms Tuesday night - they showed they didn't miss him.

Kevin McHale, starting in Bird's absence, scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading Boston past the New York Knicks, 101-87.The Celtics were able to get numerous easy baskets off give-and-go plays from McHale working the high post and from the guards coming around high picks set by Robert Parish and McHale.

Brian Shaw scored 20 points and dished out 6 assists for Boston, Reggie Lewis had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Dee Brown added 12 points and Kevin Gamble contributed 10.

The Celtics have won three games in a row, 11 of their last 12 and are 9-0 when they hold teams under 100 points.

Shaw, Lewis and Ed Pinckney scored 4 points each during a 12-5 tear that built Boston's lead to 68-55 with 4:11 to play in the third quarter. Kevin Gamble then scored 6 points over the last 1:03 of the period to help the Celtics put together a 78-66 advantage going into the fourth.

"Defense was the difference," Parish said. "With the exception of Patrick (Ewing), I thought we did a good job of shutting them down."

For much of the game, though, Ewing shut himself down. He was 1-for-7 from the floor in the first half and had only hit four shots - all dunks - until 40 seconds before the end of the third period, when he hit a 6-footer from the baseline.

"I thought Patrick was stronger in the low post than I've seen him in some time," New York Coach John MacLeod said. "He had a ton of good shots, but the ball just would not go down. I thought he was more aggressive in the low post than ever, but he couldn't get them down."

Ewing led the Knicks with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks and added 6 assists. But he was 4-for-13 from the floor in the first half and missed 7 of his 12 free throws.

The loss continued the Knicks' pattern of losing to good teams despite beating up on bad ones. New York, which had beaten the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in their last two games, is now 2-14 against teams with winning records and 12-3 against sub-.500 teams.

Heat 95, Kings 83

At Miami, Grant Long scored 8 of his 10 points in the third quarter to help the Heat hand the Kings their 12th straight road loss. Glen Rice led Miami with 21 points, while Travis Mays was top scorer for Sacramento with 19.

Hawks 109, Spurs 98

At Atlanta, Dominique Wilkins scored 40 points to send Atlanta to its seventh straight victory. The Hawks led from start to finish in winning their 10th straight game at home. David Robinson registered 35 points and 16 rebounds for San Antonio.

Clippers 122, Pacers 107

At Indianapolis, Benoit Benjamin tallied 25 points and 20 rebounds and Danny Manning added 25 points to help the Clippers snap a seven-game losing streak. Reggie Miller had 25 points for Indiana, which lost its third straight game.

Pistons 101, Hornets 98

At Charlotte, N.C., Isiah Thomas scored 27 points to lead Detroit to its seventh straight victory. The Pistons have not lost in eight meetings against Charlotte over the past two years. Mike Gminski - acquired last week from Philadelphia - led the Hornets with 20 points.

Bulls 111, Nets 92

At Chicago, Michael Jordan scored 41 points to help the Bulls hand New Jersey its eighth straight loss. Jordan closed within seven points of 15,000 for his career. Sam Bowie and Derrick Coleman led the Nets with 15 points each.

Trail Blazers 123, Rockets 97

At Houston, Clyde Drexler, Kevin Duckworth and Danny Ainge each scored 20 points to lead Portland to its fifth straight win over the Rockets. Otis Thorpe scored 17 points to lead the Rockets, whose 26-point loss was its worst this season.

Bucks 99, Bullets 96

At Milwaukee, Frank Brickowski and Jack Sikma made two free throws in the final 16 seconds to help the Bucks win a club-record 18th straight home game. Ricky Pierce paced Milwaukee, which won its eighth consecutive game, with 22 points. Bernard King led the Bullets with 30 points.

SuperSonics 96, Lakers 88

At Seattle, Derrick McKey scored 29 points and Dale Ellis made all of his 12 points in the fourth quarter as Seattle snapped a six-game losing streak against the Lakers. Los Angeles was led by James Worthy's 21 points.

Warriors 147, Nuggets 125

At Oakland, Calif., Tim Hardaway scored 34 points and Mitch Richmond added a season-high 33 to lead the Warriors. Chris Mullin added 30 points for Golden State. Denver placed seven players in double figures, led by Jerome Lane with 22 points.