NBA PLAYOFFS : Tuneup Over, Knicks Ready for Bulls

From Associated Press

The preliminary is over, as far as the New York Knicks are concerned.

Bring on the Chicago Bulls.

"I'm very happy to be finished and go on to the next round," said Patrick Ewing, who scored 27 of his 36 points in the second half at East Rutherford, N.J., Friday night in a 102-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets. "New Jersey was in the way, and we got rid of them. Let's move on. I don't care who's there. Chicago is in our way, too. We'll be ready."

Ewing, who also had 14 rebounds and five blocked shots, won a second-half duel with Derrick Coleman to help set up yet another playoff series between the Knicks and Bulls.

New York, which won the best-of-five series, 3-1, has been eliminated the last three years by the Bulls en route to their three consecutive NBA titles. The best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals begin Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

"It was a competitive series and now we have to concentrate on Chicago," Knick Coach Pat Riley said. "We know them pretty well. Somewhere, you've got to break through."

Ewing had 11 points and Charles Smith eight during a decisive 23-12 burst that turned a 49-49 tie into a 72-61 lead after three quarters. The Knicks extended the margin to 78-63 early in the fourth quarter before New Jersey rallied.

"We made a big run, they came back, we regrouped and we were able to come away with the win," said Ewing, who scored 25 points after Net center Benoit Benjamin left the game with five fouls midway through the third quarter. "I wouldn't say they were soft, but Armon Gilliam is a lot smaller than I am. I got the ball, I made strong moves and they fouled me."

Ewing made 12 of 16 free throws along with his 12-for-24 shooting from the field. Coleman scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half and finished 21 for 25 from the free-throw line.

The Nets, who shot 18.8% in the final quarter of the first three games of the series, scored seven consecutive points to close within eight, then made it 89-84 with 3:20 left on Coleman's two free throws. But they had only one more point until the final minute.

The Nets shot 31.6% for the game and 35.7% for the series.

Smith scored 18 points and Charles Oakley and John Starks had 16 each for the Knicks.

Houston 92, Portland 89--Hakeem Olajuwon scored 10 of his 28 points in the final 6:06 as the Rockets blew a 21-point first-half lead, then held on to win at Portland and advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Olajuwon also had 16 rebounds for the Midwest Division champions, who won the best-of-five series, 3-1, and open the conference semifinals at home against Phoenix on Sunday.

But he missed one of two free throws with 4.2 seconds to play to give the Trail Blazers a final chance to tie the score. Portland's Rod Strickland, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half, threw up a three-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer but it bounced off the front of the rim.

Robert Horry added 14 points and Kenny Smith 13 for the Rockets, who were 7-1 against Portland this season. Clyde Drexler scored 23 points for the Trail Blazers, who shot an all-time franchise playoff low 34%.

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