David Robinson won the battle of the giants Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but Rod Strickland was the star of the late show.
In the much-ballyhooed first meeting of the New York Knicks' Patrick Ewing and the San Antonio Spurs' sensational rookie, Robinson prevailed.
Strickland, the Knicks' backup guard, came off the bench to score 15 points in the fourth quarter to bring them from behind to a 107-101 victory.
Robinson finished with 27 points to Ewing's 18 and helped the Spurs build a 65-50 lead four minutes into the third quarter.
Ewing rallied the Knicks until he got himself in foul trouble. He scored 10 points in the third quarter and the Knicks cut the deficit to 73-71.
Strickland had failed to score and was guilty of four turnovers early in the game. But he was at his best in the fourth quarter.
With Ewing on the bench, Strickland's three-point play on a driving layup gave New York the lead for good, 97-94, with 3:22 left. In the fourth quarter he was four for four from the field and seven of nine from the line.
"I really didn't deserve to be in the game in the second half with the first half I had," Strickland said. "But Mark (Jackson) needed a breather and I made the most of my opportunity.
"I know I always play better when I do my job on defense. I made up my mind that's what I would do and suddenly, my offensive game returned, too. It was a good win for us because with Robinson and Terry Cummings, the Spurs are a much-improved team."
The Knicks are 16-1 at home, and the Spurs, who won at Boston Friday night, fell to 8-8 on the road. The Spurs also lost ground in their bid to overtake the Lakers for the best record in the West.
The Spurs are 23-9 and the Lakers 25-8.
Detroit 111, Portland 106--The Pistons rallied in the second half at Auburn Hills, Mich., to end the Trail Blazers' six-game winning streak and dropped Portland two games behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division.
The Trail Blazers, with Terry Porter running the offense, built a 73-66 lead in the third quarter.
The Pistons took over late in the quarter and with Bill Laimbeer scoring 15 of his 21 points down the stretch, Detroit, 16-2 at home, won for the eighth time in nine games.
"We never run plays for me," Laimbeer said. "I just get the garbage that nobody else wants. If the ball comes my way it means we're having problems offensively."
Golden State 138, Orlando 127--Since recovering from their terrible start, the Warriors are playing well.
Despite a 49-point performance by the Magic's Terry Catledge at Oakland, the Warriors, who won only four of their first 18 games, gained their sixth in a row and climbed to within a game of .500 (16-17).
Terry Teagle had 36 points and rookie Sarunas Marciulionis had 33.
Utah 109, Dallas 99--Karl Malone makes his off-season home in Dallas and when the Jazz play there, he usually has a big game.
This was no exception. Malone was 16 of 22 from the field and had 42 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz.
The third victory in a row pulled Utah to within one game of San Antonio in the Midwest Division.
"I always get jacked up when I play here," Malone said. "I like living here. But I love playing for Utah."
Boston 105, Miami 96--Larry Bird returned to the Celtics' lineup, but it was Robert Parish and Kevin McHale who kept the team from losing to the Heat at Miami.
In losing its 13th consecutive game, the Heat made it a battle most of the way. Rony Seikaly, who led Miami with 28 points and 18 rebounds, made two free throws with 7:43 left to give the Heat an 87-86 lead.
But the Heat failed to score on its next six possessions and McHale sank three baskets in a row to lead a 9-0 surge that put Boston in control. Parish had 30 points and 13 rebounds.
Bird, who missed four games with a sprained ankle, didn't have his shooting eye. He was five of 15 from the field and had 14 points.
Cleveland 98, New Jersey 96--There was only one second left at Richfield, Ohio, when John (Hot Rod) Williams stepped to the line with the score 96-96.
Williams, who had been fouled by the Nets' Sam Bowie while shooting a 12-foot jump shot, was just about the calmest player on the court. A 75% free-throw shooter, Williams made both shots.
"I approached the two foul shots the same as I would any foul shots," Williams said. "I try to concentrate, block everything out and think about making the free throw."
In a season filled with injuries, Williams, who had 19 points, is the only Cavalier to play in every game.
Indiana 111, Milwaukee 109--Reggie Miller threw in an off-balance 19-foot shot with three seconds left at Indianapolis to give the Pacers the victory.
The Bucks, who fell just short against the Clippers Friday night, held an 87-80 lead after three quarters. But Miller, who had 20 points, scored the first five points of the fourth quarter.
Phoenix 119, Denver 111--Kevin Johnson scored 12 of his 38 points in the last 2:11 to preserve the Suns' victory at Denver.
The Nuggets, who never led, tied the score, 102-102, with 2:57 left on a layup by Michael Adams. Seconds later, Johnson took charge.
Philadelphia 120, Washington 101--Charles Barkley had 22 points and 13 rebounds at Landover, Md., to lead the 76ers to their third road win in eight games.
The 76ers led almost the entire game. It was 62-54 at halftime and they stretched it to 82-60 midway through the third quarter.
Seattle 113, Atlanta 106--Xavier McDaniel took over with 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter at Seattle and the SuperSonics survived the first of many games they will have to play without injured guard Dale Ellis.
Dominique Wilkins had 28 points for Atlanta.