LJ makes no difference in Game 1
Posted: Thursday June 17, 1999 02:10 AM
Johnson, nursing a sprained right knee, scored only five points and committed five fouls as the Knicks lost 89-77 on Wednesday night.
A doubtful starter until shortly before gametime, he decided to play and seemed to have more problems with fouls than with the knee.
"Larry, I thought, gave us a good effort," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He gave us what he could. We just have to fight through this as far as injuries. We have to come back strong on Friday."
Johnson gets another day to rest his sprained right knee on Thursday. He was limping slightly as he left the Alamodome without speaking to reporters.
There was doubt about his availability for Game 1 until about 90 minutes before the game. After shooting in a nearly empty arena and moving rather effortlessly, he decided he could play.
Wearing a wrap instead of the heavy brace that had protected the knee during a morning shootaround, Johnson started the game guarding 7-foot David Robinson. In 2 minutes, 11 seconds, he was whistled for a pair of fouls and went to the bench.
He was in and out of the game after that, playing just 21 minutes and going 1-of-3 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line for five points. It was far below his playoff average of 12.7 points per game. He also had just one rebound.
When he came out of the game for keeps in the fourth quarter, he seemed to be favoring the knee but refused any treatment on the bench.
The sprained right knee wasn't Johnson's only problem. He also had his right elbow and left knee wrapped.
Johnson, who was injured last Friday in the final game of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, gave the Knicks an emotional boost.
"He's obviously not 100 percent but his presence was felt out there," Latrell Sprewell said.
Said Van Gundy: "He's a tough guy, so I was not surprised. He feels he can be effective so he's giving it a shot. We wanted him out there."
But there wasn't much he could do to help the Knicks, even though he seemed to have little trouble getting up and down the court.
Earlier in the day, Johnson strolled into the shootaround with no limp, no grimace, no sign that his right knee wasn't right -- except for the huge brace.
"It's not bad," he said. "We've got a ways to go. It's a matter of what I can and can't do and when I can help the team. If I can be productive at 50 percent, I'll go out there at 50 percent. I may be more than 50 percent."
The Knicks are already playing shorthanded because of Patrick Ewing's season-ending injury, a tear of the Achilles' tendon.
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