Knicks knock off Bulls to clinch third


John Starks knew there were two keys to the Knicks' ability to come back.
107k wav

Michael Jordan says it's disappointing to not win 70.
145k wav

The pressure to win 70 forced Dennis Rodman into seclusion.
147k wav

ESPN's Fred Carter says Saturday's loss doesn't signal trouble for Chicago.
154k wav

Box score | Game recap | Game Flow

CHICAGO -- John Starks scored eight of his 20 points in the final six minutes Saturday as the New York Knicks clinched third place in the Eastern Conference with a 103-101 victory over the Chicago Bulls, who were denied their second consecutive season of at least 70 wins.

"We had to win this game," Starks said. "We didn't want to give up that third seed."

New York finished third in the East and will face Detroit or Charlotte in the first round. Chicago will play Washington or Cleveland.

"It was a good win for us," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "But the Bulls are still the best team and until somebody beats them in the playoffs, I don't think they're vulnerable at all."

Michael Jordan scored 33 points for the Bulls (69-13), who set an NBA record last season by going 72-10.

"Seventy sounds better than 69," Jordan said. "We had an opportunity to win 70. It's a little disappointing, but we've got through a lot with injuries."

"I'm real disappointed we didn't win 70 again. We certainly expected to," Bulls center Luc Longley said. "We're proud that we won 69 with all the injuries, but I'd like to be able to say that I've got two 70-win seasons."

Chicago, which lost three of its final four games, expects to have Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc back from injuries in time for the playoffs, which begin next week.

The loss snapped Chicago's 32-game home winning streak and dropped their record at the United Center to 39-2 this season, one victory shy of the record 40-1 home mark by the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

"We ended the season the way we wanted to -- on a high note," Knicks center Patrick Ewing said. "We don't care if they have Rodman or Kukoc or any other of their players; we feel we can beat them. Tonight's a big win for us. We now know we can beat them in this building."

The last time New York had won in Chicago was on April 24, 1994 -- the final regular-season game at old Chicago Stadium.

Starks made a 3-pointer with 5:32 left Saturday to give the Knicks a 90-80 advantage, their first lead since the first quarter.

Knicks center Patrick Ewing rejoices.

Jordan tied the score with a free throw, made a steal and fed Steve Kerr for a 3-pointer to give Chicago a 93-90 lead with 3:46 remaining.

New York cut its deficit to one point before Jordan's jumper gave Chicago a 97-94 edge. Starks answered with a layup and Allan Houston made a baseline jumper to give the Knicks a 98-97 lead with 1:51 left.

Jordan answered with a jumper, but Ewing scored with 1:14 to go to give the Knicks the lead for good. Starks followed with his second 3-pointer with 40 seconds to go, boosting the lead to 103-99.

Chicago's Scottie Pippen made two free throws but missed badly on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"I love taking a shot at the end of the game, like the one tonight, especially against a team the caliber of the Chicago Bulls," Starks said. "It's a good thing to carry over into the playoffs."

Ewing scored 27 points and Houston added 25 for the Knicks, who held a 42-34 edge in rebounds. Charles Oakley had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Pippen had 12 points and 12 assists and Jason Caffey added 12 points for the Bulls, who shot 53 percent (40 for 75) from the field but were outscored 22-17 at the foul line.

Jordan wrapped up an unprecedented ninth NBA scoring title. He averaged 29.6 points per game, the first time in those nine seasons that he failed to average at least 30 points per game.

Copyright 1996-1997 Starwave Corporation and ESPN Inc. All rights reserved. Duplicated and redistributed without permission.