The New York Knicks are picking up where they left off last summer when they reached the NBA Finals. Especially on defense.
Allan Houston scored 23 points and Latrell Sprewell had all 19 of his in the second half last night as the Knicks clamped down defensively to post an 84-74 triumph over the Bulls in Chicago.
One night after holding Cleveland to 39 percent shooting in a season-opening victory, the Knicks limited the Bulls to 30 percent.
"We try to keep the other team off balance. It's very tough when you have two guys that play as similar style as we do," Houston said of his relationship with Sprewell. "One night, he will have a mismatch, and another night, I will."
Dickey Simpkins led the struggling Bulls with 17 points. The Knicks won despite Chicago's huge advantage at the free throw line--29 of 40 to just 8 of 9 for the Knicks.
Elton Brand, the top pick in last summer's draft, scored 14 points for the Bulls, shooting 3 of 11. Toni Kukoc made 1 of 14 shots and had just nine points. Ron Artest, Chicago's other first-round pick, scored 14 in his NBA debut.
Sprewell scored 15 in the third quarter as the Knicks took a 62-55 lead. Chicago was within six in the final period before Houston hit a three-pointer, Marcus Camby dunked on a pass from Charlie Ward and Sprewell followed a miss to put the Knicks up 12.
LAKERS 103, GRIZZLIES 88: Shaquille O'Neal amassed 28 points and 10 rebounds and Los Angeles overcame a lackluster first half to win at home. A sellout crowd of 18,997 watched the Lakers' first game at Staples Center, the new $375 million downtown arena that opened last month.
The game was also the first in Los Angeles for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, whose team opened the season Tuesday night with a 91-84 victory at Utah.
O'Neal made 13 of 22 field goal attempts and 2 of 6 free throws. Glen Rice added 17 points for the Lakers.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Michael Dickerson led the Grizzlies with 19 points each.
TRAIL BLAZERS 121, CLIPPERS 98: Damon Stoudamire had 23 points and nine assists and Scottie Pippen added 22 points as Portland cruised at home.
Four other players scored in double figures for the Trail Blazers, who shot 61 percent from the field. Steve Smith scored 22 points for Portland and Arvydas Sabonis had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Clippers rookie Lamar Odom scored 23 points.
CAVALIERS 97, NETS 90: Shawn Kemp had 27 points and 15 rebounds and Brevin Knight added 16 points to help Coach Randy Wittman post his first victory in Cleveland's home opener.
Stephon Marbury led the Nets with 27 points. Danny Ferry played in his 662nd game for Cleveland, moving him into second place on the club's career list behind Bobby "Bingo" Smith (720).
MAGIC 103, PISTONS 94: Reserve Pat Garrity scored 20 points as host Orlando gave Doc Rivers his first NBA coaching victory.
Garrity led a third-quarter surge that carried the Magic to an 11-point lead. Grant Hill scored 30 points for Detroit, which has lost 13 straight at Orlando Arena.