Scoreless in the first half, Latrell Sprewell wasted little time finding the basket in the third quarter. And his second-half surge sparked the New York Knicks to a second straight victory.
Sprewell hit three straight jumpers in the opening 90 seconds, finishing the period with 15 points, as the Knicks beat Chicago 84-74 in the Bulls' opener Wednesday night.
"The third quarter was very fun," said Sprewell, who had all 19 of his points in the second half. "I was trying to get myself fired up. Once I got a couple shots to go down, I just got more aggressive. Things really turned around for me."
Allan Houston scored 23 points for New York, and the Knicks clamped down defensively for a second straight game.
"I want us to get back to where we were last year as a team," said Sprewell, who recently signed a five-year, $61.9 million contract extension with the team he helped reach the NBA Finals last season.
"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. "We try to exploit it in every game. 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 missed 13 of 14 shots and had ust nine points. Ron Artest, Chicago's other first-round pick, also scored 14 in his NBA debut
"I had a terrible night," Kukoc said. "They happen. I don't think I had a bad choice of shots, they just didn't fall. They didn't go in and there is nothing you can do."
Sprewell scored 15 in the third quarter as the Knicks went out to a 62-55 lead. Chicago was within six in the final period before Houston hit a 3-pointer, Marcus Camby dunked on a pass from Charlie Ward, and Sprewell followed a miss from the lane to put the Knicks up 12.
Larry Johnson's tip just before the buzzer ended an ugly first half and gave the Knicks a 32-30 lead. New York had a 12-0 run in the quarter to go up 10 but then the Bulls, taking advantage of New York foul problems, scored 10 in a row to tie.
The Knicks were called for 22 first-half fouls, 12 fewer than the Bulls, who shot 27 percent from the field with just nine baskets.
For the game, New York was whistled for 36 fouls to just 16 for the Bulls.
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