Maybe anyone who thought the New York Knicks would be better off without injured center Patrick Ewing now will rethink that position.

Even if they had Ewing, who suffered a partially torn Achilles' tendon earlier in the playoffs, the Knicks still might be trailing the San Antonio Spurs, 2-0, in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. However, it's unlikely the Knicks would be so helpless around the basket against Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

As the series shifts to Madison Square Garden for Games 3 and 4, and, if necessary, Game 5, the Knicks' goals are clearly defined. Make the open shots that are available, get to the free throw line more frequently, keep Duncan and Robinson from dominating the game at both ends of the floor, and prevent the Spurs from winning a 13th consecutive playoff game.

Of course, with Ewing injured, that's more easily said than done because the Knicks don't have a polished low-post scoring threat, which also means it's hard to get Duncan or Robinson in foul trouble. In his 45 minutes during Game 2, Duncan was not charged with a single foul.

"Everybody was talking about how they play better without Patrick Ewing," Spurs guard Mario Elie said, "but now they know they need the big fellow in the middle to hit some jumpers and get [opponents] into foul trouble."

The last thing the Knicks want to admit going into Monday night's Game 3 is that they have been intimidated by Robinson and Duncan.

But forward Kurt Thomas did say after Game 2 on Friday night at the Alamodome, "When you have two seven-footers that are covering the way they are covering, and [dropping down] when Latrell [Sprewell] and Allan [Houston] are posting up smaller guys, it makes it difficult to get the shot off."

Van Gundy's comments after Game 2 suggested he probably will continue to bring 6-foot-11 Marcus Camby off the bench, even though 6-11 Chris Dudley's hyperextended elbow has reduced his effectiveness, and even though keeping 6-6 Larry Johnson in the lineup gives the Spurs a tremendous matchup advantage because Van Gundy keeps assigning Johnson, who has an injured knee, to cover Duncan.

The mood and momentum of the series were summed up by a message to New Yorkers that was flashed on the scoreboard toward the end of Game 2. It read: "New Yorkers. Welcome to San Antonio. A Clean City. We Sweep. Frequently."

But San Antonio's players say they don't share that view of this series. "They are very explosive," Robinson said of the Knicks. "Those guys run all over the place; they get to the boards extremely well.

"I know a couple of times I'm cursing myself out for letting them get to the offensive boards. They're just relentless. They never stop."

But Houston and Sprewell aren't getting much help. Those were the only two New York players to score in double figures Friday night. "There's a lot of pressure on Allan Houston and Sprewell to score," Elie said. "Those guys are two terrific players, but I always say two can't beat 12.

"They need another scorer out there to help those guys out. . . . They need a third or fourth guy to help them score."

1999 NBA Finals

Best-of-seven

New York vs.

San Antonio

(Spurs lead series, 2-0)

Game 1: at San Antonio 89, New York 77

Game 2: at San Antonio 80, New York 67

Game 3: San Antonio at New York, Monday, 9

Game 4: San Antonio at New York, Wednesday, 9

Game 5*: San Antonio at New York, Friday, 9

Game 6*: New York at San Antonio, June 27, 7:30

Game 7*: New York at San Antonio, June 29, 9

All games on WRC-4, WBAL-11

* if necessary

New York Knicks

San Antonio Spurs

Spurs Finals Statistics

Player G MIN FGM-FGA PCT FTM-FTA PCT REB AST PTS

Duncan 244.522-38.57914-19.73715.52.529.0

Robinson235.58-18.44413-21.61910.05.514.5

Elie237.57-17.41210-12.8334.02.512.0

Jackson 223.57-18.3890-0 -- 1.51.010.0

Elliott 233.57-18.3891-5.2003.02.08.5

Johnson 236.55-11.4554-6.6672.56.57.0

Rose215.01-4.2501-2.5001.50.51.5

Kerr210.51-4.2500-1.0001.00.51.0

Daniels 22.01-2.5000-0 -- 0.00.51.0

Kersey 12.00-0 -- 0-0 -- 0.00.00.0

King11.00-0 -- 0-0 -- 0.00.00.0

TEAM224059-130.45443-66.65239.021.584.5

Three-point field goals -- Jackson (6-15); Elliott (2-6); Kerr (0-1); Elie (0-5)

Knicks Finals Statistics

Player G MIN FGM-FGA PCT FTM-FTA PCT REB AST PTS

Sprewell243.017-46.37010-101.0007.01.522.5

Houston 243.016-37.4326-61.0002.02.519.0

Camby227.58-17.4710-0 -- 8.50.08.0

Thomas 225.56-17.3533-4.75011.50.07.5

Ward223.55-9.5560-0 -- 3.53.06.0

Johnson 232.03-15.2003-5.6003.51.05.0

Childs 226.03-16.1880-0 -- 1.52.03.0

Dudley 218.50-5.0002-6.3335.50.01.0

Williams12.00-1.0000-0 -- 0.00.00.0

TEAM224058-163.35624-31.77443.010.072.0

Three-point field goals -- Ward (2-4); Sprewell (1-4); Johnson (1-7); Childs (0-3); Houston (0-4)