Bulls Battle Knicks with Backs against the Garden's Wall

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Both the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks need to break disturbing patterns Sunday when they meet in the seventh and deciding game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

For the Bulls, the overriding pattern is that the home team has won each of the first six games. They must overcome that to keep alive their chances of winning their fourth successive National Basketball Association title.

For the Knicks, they have fallen behind in the first half of each of the home games they've won, only to come roaring back to salvage home-court advantage.

"What we have to avoid is getting behind and always fighting back," guard Derek Harper said. "A lot of times you are able to get back and win, but . . . against a good team like Chicago, it's hard to make it back all the time."

Bulls coach Phil Jackson said the nature of seventh games dictates an intense pace.

"I think there is going to be unbelievable energy and activity in the game," Jackson said. "I anticipate a very active game, a very waged war, one that I think is going to take a whole lot of emotion and energy for both teams to fight their way through it. It's going to be a long battle."

Another disturbing trend for the Bulls is that they averaged only 16 fourth-quarter points in five games at Madison Square Garden this season.

The Bulls held New York to 14 in the final period of Game 5 on Wednesday night, but managed only 15 themselves and lost 87-86. That gave the Knicks a 3-2 lead in the series.

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