Some were suggesting that with the acquisition of Kiki Vandeweghe, Johnny Newman would be replaced as starting small forward for the New York Knicks.
Such talk, however, did not bother Newman, a third-year forward from Richmond, Va. He continued to play a major role in the Knicks’ resurgence.
His playing time was reduced a bit when Vandeweghe joined the team. But in the last two games, Newman has been instrumental in New York’s success.
Newman’s steal and breakaway dunk Tuesday night gave the Knicks the lead for good with three minutes left and they went on to beat the Phoenix Suns, 124-119. It was the third consecutive victory for the Knicks, who improved their home record to 27-1.
Patrick Ewing, taking charge in the absence of injured playmaker Mark Jackson, scored 18 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to help stop the Suns. He was 17 for 22 from the field.
Newman, playing 30 minutes, had 23 points and five assists. In the four games since Vandeweghe joined the club, he is 26 for 43 from the field and has scored 70 points.
“The rumors and the subsequent signing didn’t bother me,” Newman said. “I think it was a smart move to get a veteran sharpshooter. I didn’t worry because I feel the Knicks think of me when they think of the future.
“All I can do is continue to play hard.”
Newman was a second-round pick in the 1986 draft. He was released after playing 59 games as a rookie and signed by the Knicks. Although he saw more action in his second season, he shot only 43.5%. This season, he suddenly developed.
He has averaged more than 16 points a game for the Knicks, who are 40-19 and lead the Atlantic Division by eight games. A year ago, after 59 games, the Knicks were 25-34.
Ewing’s development is also a big factor. When the fourth quarter opened, the Knicks led by four.
“Mark told me to go out there and win it,” Ewing said. “The game was on the line and it was time for me to take control. I can do that now.”
Vandeweghe played 19 minutes and had only eight points coming off the bench.
Tom Chambers had 31 points for the Suns, who fell three games behind the Lakers in the Atlantic Division. They are only a half-game ahead of third-place Seattle.
Cleveland 105, Sacramento 95--In the absence of the Cavaliers’ other big men, 6-11 John Williams took charge for the Cavaliers at Sacramento.
Brad Daugherty, a 7-footer, is out with a hand injury and 7-1 Tree Rollins became a father Tuesday. Williams, with help from guards Mark Price and Ron Harper, made sure the Cavaliers’ losing streak ended at two games.
All three scored 20 points and enabled the Cavaliers to pull away in the closing minutes.
Philadelphia 90, Chicago 88--Derek Smith, one of the stars of the league just a few years ago, made an auspicious first start for the 76ers at Philadelphia.
Smith, signed last month after being released by Sacramento, made a layup with one second remaining to end the 76ers’ three-game losing streak.
Smith finished with 13 points on a night when Charles Barkley also had 13 points, but 12 rebounds.
Michael Jordan had 34 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls.
Milwaukee 121, Washington 101--Sidney Moncrief, in one of his best games in an injury-filled season, helped the Bucks end the Bullets’ four-game winning streak at Milwaukee.
Moncrief scored 10 of his 20 points in a brief spurt in the second half that broke open a close game.
His three-point shot to end the third quarter was followed by seven consecutive points to start the last quarter.
Portland 116, San Antonio 103--Terry Porter had 25 points and Clyde Drexler 20 at San Antonio as the Trail Blazers beat the Spurs for the 10th consecutive time.
The Spurs have lost 14 of their last 15. They lost this one despite Frank Brickowski’s 26 points.
They were only five points behind when Porter scored five points in a 12-2 rally that broke it open.
Seattle 110, Indiana 92--Dale Ellis scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter at Indianapolis to break open a tight game.
The SuperSonics led by only six points after three quarters, but scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and romped to their third consecutive victory.
Former UCLA star Reggie Miller, who had 36 points and 29 in recent Pacer road victories, was one for 13 from the field and had only eight points.