As the playoff matchup between the Boston Celtics and New York begins to come into view, the Knicks are seeing green but the signposts for success are all red.
New York, which is struggling to find a winning formula before the postseason arrives, suffered its ninth loss in the last 12 games in Sunday's 115-102 defeat to the Celtics. In addition, they concluded their season series with Boston at 0-5.The two teams are potential first-round playoff opponents for the second straight year, as the Knicks battle the Indiana Pacers for the No. 7 spot in the East while Boston and Chicago fight for the top conference finish.
"This team has plenty of talent but right now, we're a little banged up, a little inconsistent," said Knicks forward Kiki Vandeweghe. "All you can do is hope it gets cleared up by playoff time."
The way New York is going, they better do more then hope. Unless they drastically change their ways, it appears unlikely that the Knicks will be able to score a repeat of last year's opening-round knockout over Boston.
"I'd like to say we were on a roll going into the playoffs, that we were winning the games we should win, but unfortunately it's not the case," added Vandeweghe.
Boston, playing without Larry Bird for the fourth straight game, received 28 points from forward Kevin Gamble and 23 points and 11 rebounds from center Robert Parrish. Reggie Lewis added 20 points while Brian Shaw pumped in 17.
"They continue to show why they're the favorite to win the NBA championship," New York Coach John MacLeod said of the Celtics. "They have speed and quickness and at the same time they have the older players with experience. We did a few things well out there today, but you can't just do a few things well to beat the Celtics at home."
The Celtics shut down much of New York's erratic offense, except for center Patrick Ewing, who had 33 points. Trent Tucker added 18 points and Vandeweghe 15.
Boston put the game away late in the third quarter on a 15-6 run, which featured Gamble's 3-point play with two seconds remaining to make it 94-78. Gamble hit for 9 points in the quarter on 4 of 5 shooting. For the period, the Celtics connected on 68 percent of their shots.
Bullets 101, Heat 96
At Landover, Md., 26 points by Harvey Grant helped the Washington Bullets avoid another 50-loss season for at least another day with a victory over Miami. Washington, which is 29-49 with four games left, went 31-51 last year and have not had back-to-back 50-loss seasons since the team was based in Chicago in the early 1960's. Sherman Douglas posted 26 points for the Heat.
Timberwolves 96, 76ers 88
At Philadelphia, Tony Campbell scored 23 points and Doug West added a season-high 17 points to boost Minnesota. Philadelphia played without Charles Barkley, who missed his sixth straight game because of a strained left knee. The 76ers got 30 points from Hersey Hawkins and 27 from Ron Anderson.
Indiana 125, Detroit 107
At Indianapolis, Reggie Miller scored 24 points, Detlef Schrempf added 23 and Chuck Person 20, lifting Indiana. Indiana hit 21 of 35 from the field and 30 consecutive free throws after halftime to overtake the two-time defending NBA champs. Vinnie Johnson scored 24 points and Bill Laimbeer added 19 with 14 rebounds for the Pistons.
Blazers 139, Magic 119
At Portland, Ore., Clyde Drexler scored 23 points and the Portland Trail Blazers assured themselves of the best record in the NBA with their 14th straight victory. Portland's record is now 61-18, a team record. The worst the Blazers can finish is 61-21, which is the best Chicago could finish. But Portland still would have the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after beating the Bulls both times they met this season.