"I doubt that the Knicks are being taken seriously by the rest of the league?" New York coach Willis Reed said. However, a few more games like Tuesday night's 123-117 victory over San Antonio could change that.

The Knicks were impressive despite a fourth-quarter letdown that saw a 19-point lead evaporate to five.

Reed utilized 11 men (only Tom McMillen did not play) and it was during a stretch in which Glen Gondrezick, Toby Knight and Ray Williams - all rookies - were playing that the Spurs managed to close in.

"I think I went with them (the rookies ) a little longer than I should have," said Reed. "But they were playing well and I didn't think we'd lose at that point."

All the Knicks looked good in winning their sixth game against three defeats, which keeps them on top of the NBA's Atlantic Division. Lonnie Shelton scored 22 points - eight of them coming within the final 2:13 of the first half to put New York in front for good - and Bob McAdoo poured in 33.

"Willis wants me to give lendership to the young guys," said McAdoo. "That's new for me. I haven't given leadership before."

McAdoo, Shelton and Knight combined for all 33 of the Knicks' second-quarter points as they chipped away at a nine-point San Antonio lead to got ahead, 60-54 at the half.

George Gervin had a game-high 35 points and Larry Kenon scored 26 for the Spurs.

"The end of the first half was the key to the game," said San Antonio coach Doug Moe. "They beat us off the boards, 13-1, in offensive rebouding. That killed us.

Elsewhere in the NBA: