March 21st 2014: Knicks survive a late comeback effort from the Philadelphia 76ers
The 2013-14 Knicks was a season of disappointment. A team that had high expectations following a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals the season before. A team that had its highest win total since the 1996-97 season. Expectations were high, yet the team floundered over the course of the season. Nothing exemplified this season more than surviving a late comeback effort against the Sam Hinkie-led Philadelphia 76ers, the 2nd worst team in the league.
The Knicks nearly blew a 17 point lead, 91-74, with 5 minutes remaining in the 4th, after coach Mike Woodson took out his starters. Woodson inserted a lineup of Toure Murry, Shannon Brown, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jeremy Tyler, & Cole Aldrich to maintain the lead. In most circumstances, this would be easy to accomplish. For the 2013-14 Knicks, it was anything but easy.
4 minutes later, the Knicks committed 5 turnovers and the 17 point lead shrunk to 2 with 32 seconds remaining. The 76ers roster on the floor included Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, James Nunnally, Thaddeus Young, and Henry Sims; not exactly world-beaters.
The comeback was alarming enough that Woodson had to bring back all of his starters to preserve the lead and victory. James Anderson had the opportunity to tie or win the game, but turned the ball over with 8 seconds remaining as the Knicks survived. An overall embarrassing effort to say the least.
At the same time, the victory marked an interesting feat in NBA history. The Knicks became the first team since the 1992-93 Houston Rockets to follow up a 7 game losing streak with an 8 game winning streak. The Rockets used that winning streak to propel themselves to a 55-27 record and a Western Conference Semifinals berth. The Knicks, on the other hand, were behind the 8 ball as they still stood 3 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the 8 seed.
The 8 game winning streak came at the hands of a softer schedule. The Knicks defeated bottom feeders such as the 76ers (twice), Wolves, Cavs, Jazz, Celtics, and the Bucks. The latter team (Bucks) were the worst in the league with a 19 year old, diminutive version of Giannis. Pre-Greek Freak indeed. The winning streak also coincided with Phil Jackson’s arrival as President of Basketball Operations.