On This Date: Ewing scores 41 in a blowout against the Indiana Pacers

April 13th 1988: Patrick Ewing scores 41 in a blowout against the Indiana Pacers

Patrick Ewing completely dominated the Indiana Pacers with 41 points in only 26 minutes in a 127-107 blowout against the Indiana Pacers. Ewing hit 18-24 from the field and would have had more points had he not sat for most of the 2nd quarter due to foul trouble. Ewing only played half the 4th quarter as the Knicks had a 25 point lead when he left the game to a standing ovation.

This game was a stretch of 4 of 6 games where Ewing scored more than 36 points  (with 40+ in 2 of the games). Each game was important for the Knicks to stay afloat in the playoff seeding. This victory helped the Knicks move into the 7th seed in the playoff race. The Knicks settled into the 8 seed when they faced the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Largely due to playoff inexperience (this was Ewing’s first playoff series), the Knicks lost to the Celtics in 4 games.

On This Date: Ewing scores 36 and hit the go-ahead fade away in OT to defeat the Detroit Pistons

April 11th 1988: Patrick Ewing scores 36 and hits the go-ahead fade-away to defeat the Detroit Pistons in Overtime

Patrick Ewing carried the Knicks on offense with 36 points, on 11-15 from the field and 14-20 from the free throw line, to help defeat the Detroit Pistons 114-111 in overtime. Ewing hit the go-ahead fade away jumper to put the Knicks up 1 and was fouled on the play by Isiah Thomas. While Ewing couldn’t convert the 3 point play, Dennis Rodman was not able to secure the defensive rebound. Johnny Newman eventually went to the line to hit the two clutch free throws to put the Knicks up by 3 to win the game.

The Knicks, led by Rick Pitino, employed their two center rotation during stretches of the game to overwhelm the Pistons. Bill Cartwright scored 21 points off the bench in 35 minutes.

Furthermore, Mark Jackson clinched the NBA rookie record for most assists/game with a near-triple double effort. Jackson had a near triple double with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists, and 5 steals. He went on to average 10.6 assists/game to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award.

 

 

On this date: Knicks score 133 in victory against the Spurs

March 21st 1988: The New York Knicks score a then-season high 133 points in a victory against the San Antonio Spurs

In a box score that would fit in with the modern NBA, the Knicks scored a then-season high 133 points in a 133-121 road victory against the San Antonio Spurs. The team shot over 52% from the field even though they only made 2 three point shots. Additionally, the Knicks attempted 45 free throws, but only made 31 of the attempts. Interestingly enough, the bench had just as many free throw attempts as the starting lineup, but only missed 4 free throws compared to 19 for the latter group.

6 Knicks scored in double figures in the victory. Rookie Mark Jackson continued his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign with 20 points, 7-10 from the field, and 14 assists. Johnny Newman led the Knicks in scoring with 25 points, on 12-21 from the field, and 7 assists. Patrick Ewing scored 23 points on 10-15 from the field.

The Knicks eventually broke their season high in scoring with 136 points in a road victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 5th 1988.

 

On This Date: Bernard King returns to MSG as a Washington Bullets player and Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

December 8, 1987: Bernard Kings makes his first visit to MSG as a member of the Washington Bullets

Bernard King returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a Washington Bullet. The Knicks got the last laugh in a 116-92 blowout victory. King came off the bench to score 19 points in 32 minutes.

Patrick Ewing & Bill Cartwright combined for 52 points and simply overpowered the Bullets’ frontcourt. Mark Jackson nearly had a triple double with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists.

King missed the entire 1985-86 season and all but 6 games of the 1986-87 season recovering from the torn ACL.  In the 6 games, King averaged 22.7 points a game and shot nearly 50% from the field.

However, the Knicks decided against re-signing Bernard King in the summer of 1987 for various reasons.  At the time, the Knicks were afraid that King wouldn’t fully recover from the knee surgery.  At the same time, the front office didn’t like that King did most of his rehabilitation away from the team and barely attended games during the stretch.  Furthermore, the Knicks committed to rebuilding with Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, & Kenny Walker, amongst others, and thought that King would be a deterrence to the development process.

Despite the Knicks’ qualms, King was able to make a near-full recovery and had several productive seasons after his Knicks tenure.  He made the 1991 All Star team and averaged 28.4 points/game that season, including a 49 point effort against the Knicks.

The Knicks had a short stint of success in the Rick Pitino era and spent a lot of effort looking for small forwards after King’s departure.  Perhaps Bernard King would have made a difference.


December 8, 2001:  Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

In a day that marked the downward spiral of the New York Knicks in the 2000s, Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) abruptly resigned after a 10-9 record to start the season. The team won 5 of their last 6 games heading into the resignation.

He was known as one of the hardest working coaches in the league.  Many of his former assistant coaches currently coaching in the NBA possess the same traits as him. Six + years of coaching at high intensity took a toll on Van Gundy and his family.  JVG, then 39, was married with a 6 year old daughter and often longed to spend more time with his family.

JVG felt he was losing the team as early as the 2000-01 season, the same reason the Knicks traded Ewing.  The team wasn’t playing with the same intensity that they were reputed for during the 90s.  He often questioned the team’s effort and publicly stated that the team was “mailing it in” during some of the games.

Additionally, Van Gundy dealt with tragedy close to home as two of his close friends, Farrell Lynch & Bill Minardi, were killed in the September 11th attacks.  The culmination of events leading up to the season were tough to overcome.

JVG left the Knicks with a 248-172 record.  He spent nearly 7 years as an assistant coach under Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, & Don Nelson.  As a head coach, he led the Knicks to an unexpected NBA Finals run in 1999.  Despite the success, he was nearly fired on multiple occasions and dealt with a highly publicized feud with GM Ernie Grunfeld that led to the latter’s dismissal.  Furthermore, he outlasted both Patrick Ewing and Dave Checketts, leaving him with few allies internally in the organization.

Don Chaney took over for JVG as interim coach.  It’s safe to say the Knicks never recovered after his resignation during the decade.  Likewise, JVG has admitted that he shouldn’t have resigned.