Patrick Ewing, who grew up in the shadows of Boston Garden, nearly stole the show during his NBA debut in Boston last night. But Larry Bird of the Celtics did.

Bird scored 18 of his game-high 31 points in a decisive third period as the Boston Celtics got past New York's tenacious defense and won, 94-88, for their sixth straight.

Ewing, a schoolboy star in nearby Cambridge, Mass., before going on to all-America honors at Georgetown University, nearly matched Bird point for point. Ewing, the 7-foot rookie, finished with a career high 29 points, including 13 in the third quarter when Boston outscored New York by 31-25.

"We have a very sound defensive club and with Patrick Ewing in the lineup we feel we have a chance every night," Knicks Coach Hubie Brown said. "With some of our key players injured, we don't have a lot of established big scorers. However, Patrick is developing into an outstanding offensive threat."

"I spent Thanksgiving with my family and it was good to be home," Ewing said while Bird rested in the trainer's room after Boston's second victory over New York in a week. "We played well enough to win, but there'll be other nights.

"I wasn't loose at the start and then I made a lot of mistakes. This is a learning experience for me, but I think I played better than I did against them in New York last weekend. I'm learning a lot from (Boston center) Robert Parish. He has a lot of moves. I'm also learning that they're expecting me to take jump shots. I'm going to have to go to the hoop more."

Bird, who missed his first eight shots from the floor, finally scored two baskets in the last minute of the first half to give Boston a 45-43 lead at intermission.

He picked up where he left off as the Celtics went ahead by 12 in the third period. He made eight field goals and two foul shots to help the Celtics to a 76-68 lead after three quarters.

Kevin McHale scored 18 points as the Celtics improved their record to 14-2. They are 9-0 at home.