Pat Cummings, filling in for injured Patrick Ewing, provided a creditable imitation last night at Capital Centre against the Washington Bullets. But it wasn't enough.
Cummings, a seven-year veteran, scored 34 points (tying his career high) and had 19 rebounds (one short of his all-time mark), but the New York Knicks were unable to overcome Washington's collective balance. As a result, the Bullets, playing before a crowd of 13,439, won their second consecutive game, 102-94.
Jeff Ruland led Washington with 23 points, and Cliff Robinson and Gus Williams scored 22. Jeff Malone added 17 and Dan Roundfield 15 as Washington improved to 5-8.
Rory Sparrow, the Knicks' second-leading scorer in the game, had only 13 points as the Bullets avenged Tuesday's 98-94 loss at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won that game even though they played most of it without Ewing, a former Georgetown all-America, who injured his ankle during the first 2 1/2 minutes.
The Bullets outrebounded the Knicks, 52-42. The fact that 24 of the Bullets' rebounds came at the offensive end was the key, Knicks Coach Hubie Brown said.
"They hurt us with all the second shots they got," he said. "They have a big rebounding advantage with the people they have, and we didn't counteract that with good fundamentals. They really outmanned us."
The Bullets' all-around victory had Washington Coach Gene Shue smiling.
"Gentlemen, we're streaking," said Shue. "I think that tonight we were able to get a defensive team into the game for a long stretch when it was on the line. Dudley Bradley, Dan Roundfield, Charles Jones -- they were all playing great defense. New York couldn't score, and we were getting enough points to keep things comfortable."
The comfort zone wasn't reached until very late in the game, however. The lead changed 12 times, and the score was tied seven times. Washington broke on top for good, 89-88, with only 5:38 remaining on a jumper by Malone.
From that point, the Bullets' defense went to work. In addition to preventing the Knicks from making field goals -- they were held scoreless from the 3:08 mark until 51 seconds remained -- Washington came up with a pair of steals, and Jones had two of his six blocked shots.
Just as important, Cummings was held to three points, his only points of the period. Afterward, Cummings, who has been bothered by tendinitis in his right ankle, said he didn't feel comfortable during the game.
"I still can't shoot a jump shot, and I can't move the way I know that I can," he said. "There were times when I would beat someone, and someone else would be able to get over to help. They'd block my shot when I should have been scoring or getting fouled. It's frustrating, because I know I can do more."
His effort last night was impressive enough for the Bullets.
"When teams scout the Knicks, they're going to have to take notice of him," said Robinson. "He can do more than shoot the jumper. He pounds the boards, and he's always around the basket."
Robinson said the Bullets are coming around nicely, too.
"We're still struggling offensively, but things are coming a little at a time," he said. "It's not like we're exploding and can say, 'These are the real Bullets.' We have some good stretches, and then it goes away for a while. Tonight was ugly, but we won."
And that's what counts, said Williams.
"We have high expectations for this team, and that seven-game losing streak didn't help," he said. "Hopefully, we can change that now into a seven-game stretch of wins."