In the final minutes, the New York Knicks imitated their frenetic coach, Hubie Brown, and clawed and blocked and harassed their way to a 100-97 victory over the Washington Bullets tonight.
The Knicks came back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter and played a swarming defense for the rest of the game.
Brown returned to the bench only last week after doctors diagnosed him for angina. If his prescription was for calm, he didn't follow it, running up and down the sideline, asking for pressure and more pressure. He got what he wanted in triplicate.
Bill Cartwright, Ray Williams and and Rory Sparrow forced turnovers in the last three minutes and were able to score the decisive points at the foul line. The three combined for 55 points, with Williams leading the team with 21 points.
"Our guards played foolishly in the first half," Brown said with his accustomed candor. "But as it got down to the last six minutes, they were great."
"In the end, we did the same thing we did all game," Sparrow said. "We sustained our pressure and they weren't able to sustain theirs. We played 11 guys and that helped."
Brown shrugged at suggestions that his coaching style could prove a liability to his health, even as it helps incite the Knicks into the win column.
"There's no damage to my heart, it's my arteries," he said. "As long as I maintain the medication and stay cool with the exception of the 2 1/2-hour roller-coaster, I'll be fine. It's difficult to coach outside your personality. I wish I could be like John Wooden: just cross my legs and watch--but I can't."
For the Bullets, it was the second straight night of deep disappointment. Tonight's loss to the Knicks and Friday night's loss in Philadelphia, which hinged on a controversial technical foul called against Jeff Ruland, are a rough beginning.
Playing just as aggressively as he did in Philadelphia against Moses Malone, Ruland scored 28 points and had 14 rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds. Ruland's 18 free throws ties a Madison Square Garden record for a visiting player. It was also a career high.
But, said Coach Gene Shue, Ruland made a crucial error just before fouling out. "That steal (by Williams) was the key play," Shue said. "He had the ball on the break, and instead of passing off to one of the guards, it's stolen.
"But that wasn't the only thing for us. We had chances to blow it open. We just couldn't score. Jeff Malone has just not shot well (three for 14 tonight, eight for 32 in two games) and Ricky Sobers has been in foul trouble from the opening whistle in both games. With that happening, you can't get a rhythm going."
The Bullets shot .395 from the field. "I don't know what it is exactly," said Malone. "Maybe I'm pressing, trying to do well. I shot so well in the preseason and now I'm around 20 percent. I gotta start feeling good about taking my shot."
The Knicks (.414) were not much better. For a six-minute stretch in the second period, they went zero for 17.
Although the officiating was far from flawless, there were fewer complaints than Friday in Philadelphia.
Before the game, locked-out league officials, including union leader Jack Madden, protested outside Madison Square Garden. When the protesters tried to bring their rally inside, police tore up their placards and escorted them to Eighth Avenue. The league and the referees are still trying to negotiate a settlement in Princeton, N.J.
After the game Shue said, "I think (the officiating) is going to be a problem, especially on the road.