On This Date: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ potential game-winning 3 to force a Game 7

June 19th 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ three point shot to force a pivotal Game 7

The New York Knicks were one three point shot away from winning the 1994 NBA Finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t that close, but it sure felt like it for Knicks fan. With the Knicks down 86-84 and 5.5 seconds remaining, Pat Riley drew up a play for John Starks. Starks was the hottest Knick player in Game 6 with 27 points on 9-17 from the field and 5-9 from three. Ewing set a screen for Starks to drive to the left side of the court. Unfortunately, Hakeem Olajuwon switched onto Starks. As Starks put up the potentially title-winning three point shot, Hakeem blocked the shot and the Rockets defeated the Knicks 86-84 to tie the series and force the pivotal Game 7 in Houston.

There are so many what-if moments tied back to this game. Had Hakeem not blocked the shot, it seemed that Starks would have made the three. Starks was the most productive Knick during the game and deserved the final opportunity to win the series. Unfortunately, this loss and missed shot carried onto Game 7 with his 2-18 performance.

On This Date: The OJ Game

June 17th 1994: The New York Knicks win Game 5, but the game was overshadowed by the infamous OJ Simpson car chase

The New York Knicks defeated the Houston Rockets 91-84 to take a 3-2 series lead. Patrick Ewing had another dominant performance with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and a then-NBA Finals record 8 blocked shots.1 John Starks had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists on 7-14 from the field.

For as amazing as the victory was for the Knicks, the game was largely overshadowed by the OJ Simpson car chase. The white Ford Bronco driving up I-5 on a slow chase from the cops. Helicopters overlooking the Bronco as it sped by police officers. Most of the NBC affiliate stations put the game on split-screen to show the car chase live. For most fans, the audio of the NBC news coverage was front and center while the game was on the side. KNBC in Los Angeles didn’t even put the game on TV and just focused its attention on the chase.

Most people know the background behind the OJ Simpson murder case, so it’s not necessary to rehash here. According to Jeff Van Gundy, Al Cowlings, the driver of the Ford Bronco, allegedly drove the car slow along I-5 to listen to the NBA Finals on radio. Additionally, because of the OJ car chase, we also missed Anthony Mason & Hakeem Olajuwon nearly coming to blows.

On This Date: Knicks play their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

June 12th 1994: The New York Knicks drop Game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals, their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

21 years after their last NBA championship, the New York Knicks returned to MSG to host the Houston Rockets in Game 3 after splitting the first 2 games in Houston. Unfortunately, the Knicks couldn’t protect their short-lived home court advantage and lost 93-89.

The Knicks fell behind early, trailing by as many as 16 points in the 1st half and even by 14 points in the 3rd quarter. The Knicks had to rely on one of their signature 4th quarter rallies to get back into the game and take the lead midway through the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, Sam Cassell proved to be a thorn on the Knicks’ side in Game 3. Cassell scored the last 7 Rockets points, including a go-ahead 3 point shot to give the Rockets a 89-88 lead.

Shortly after the 3, one of the most controversial calls occurred in the game. The refs called an offensive foul on Patrick Ewing after he set a “moving screen” on Vernon Maxwell to get John Starks open for a 3 point shot. After looking at multiple replays, I still can’t see the moving screen.

After the offensive foul, Cassell hit 2 more free throws to put the Rockets up 3. After John Starks missed a couple three point shots, Hakeem Olajuwon fouled him with less than 4 seconds left to put him on the line to shoot 2. Starks needed to make the first and miss the second FT. Starks followed the command, but Otis Thorpe grabbed the defensive rebound with 2.8 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, Starks committed an out-of-bounds foul and Cassell hit 2 more FTs to seal the victory.

For the Knicks, Derek Harper led the way with 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals on 9-15 from the field and 3-7 from three. Unfortunately, neither John Starks nor Patrick Ewing got into any consistent offensive rhythm. Ewing struggled from the field with 18 points, on 9-29 from the field, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots. Hakeem Olajuwon’s defense proved to be too much for Ewing in Game 3. Starks scored 20 on 6-16 from the field. Hakeem had a near quadruple double with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocked shots.

On This Date: Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals and the LJ 4 Point Play

June 5th 1994: The New York Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals

The New York Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than 20 years after defeating the Indiana Pacers 94-90. The game was back and forth with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter. With less than 35 seconds remaining, Dale Davis threw down a dunk to put the Pacers up 90-89. Little did they know that those would be the last points the Pacers scored in the game.

After Pat Riley called a time out, John Starks received the ball and drove to the basket from the right hand side of the court. Starks threw up a missed layup, but Patrick Ewing was there to throw down the go-ahead iconic tip-dunk with 26 seconds remaining to put the Knicks ahead 91-90.

The Pacers worked the clock and Reggie Miller received a pass off the curl which he subsequently airballed out of bounds to the delight of the MSG faithful. With 4.2 seconds remaining, Starks received the inbounds pass and was, surprisingly, flagrantly fouled by Reggie Miller. After the foul, Ewing was shown putting both his arms up (as shown in the iconic photos) in the air knowing he was off to the NBA Finals. He gave the courtside fans a high five and even bear hugged a fan along the way.

Starks hit one of the two free throws off the flagrant foul and subsequently hit an additional 2 free throws to seal the victory. Ewing ended Game 7 on a historic effort with 24 points, 22 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocked shots.


June 5th 1999: Larry Johnson’s 4 point play

Without Patrick Ewing and down 91-88 with 12 seconds remaining in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks were in desperation mode to save the game. There were two choices: hit a quick 2 and foul or attempt a 3. Charlie Ward was the inbounds passer from the sideline by the Indiana Pacers bench. The Pacers tipped the inbounds pass, but it landed in Larry Johnson’s palms.

LJ took 4 seconds off the clock before making a move off of Antonio Davis.He drove left towards the sideline and Davis fouled him as he shot the 3 with less than 7 seconds remaining. Miraculously, LJ made the shot and the MSG crowd roared. The various TV replays showed the Garden crowd literally going nuts after the shot was made. It was a priceless moment.

LJ ran down to the other side of the basket about to celebrate only to be held back by Chris Childs & Latrell Sprewell. LJ completed the 4 point play to put the Knicks up 92-91. After the Pacers called a timeout, Mark Jackson threw up a desperation shot over pressure defense that missed to help the Knicks win Game 3.

Larry Johnson helped carry the Knicks in Game 3 after Patrick Ewing’s injury sidelined him for the remainder of the playoffs. LJ led the Knicks with 26 points and 3 three pointers, including the iconic 4 point play. The momentum of Game 3 didn’t carry over to Game 4, but it definitely played a role in winning both Games 5 & 6 to head to their 2nd NBA Finals in the decade.

On This Date: Knicks defeat Pacers in Game 2 of the 1994 ECF

May 26th 1994: The New York Knicks defeat the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals

The New York Knicks handled their business at home in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers. The Knicks defeated the Pacers 89-78 in Game 2. Patrick Ewing scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 45 minutes. Derek Harper had an all-around effort with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Knicks, up 2-0, remained undefeated at home in the playoffs heading into Indiana.

Their home winning streak was in jeopardy with around 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter as the Knicks were down 62-57. The Knicks, however, went on an 18-2 run to leap ahead by 11 with less than 8 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The run put the Knicks up for good.

On This Date: Knicks finally defeat the Bulls to advance to the 1994 ECF


May 22nd 1994: The New York Knicks finally defeat the Chicago Bulls to advance to the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals

Between 1988-1993, the New York Knicks had no answer on how to defeat the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Playoffs. On this date in 1994, the Knicks finally defeated the Bulls (albeit sans Michael Jordan) in Game 7 87-77 that marked their first ever playoff matchup victory against their rivals. The victory took all 7 games as each team traded home victories. The New York Knicks, with the #2 overall seed, had home court advantage in the series.

The Game 7 victory required herculean efforts from the Knick big men. The Bulls held Ewing scoreless in the 1st half due to foul trouble. However, Ewing exploded in the 2nd half and ended with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 6 assists. Charles Oakley had a monster night with 17 points, 20 rebounds (11 on the offensive end), 4 assists, and 3 steals.

Greg Anthony also had a very productive game for the Knicks. Anthony scored 7 points, but was part of a crucial run where the Knicks scored 8 straight points in the end of the 3rd quarter. Due to Anthony’s performance, he played the final 15 minutes of the game.

On This Date: Scottie Pippen fouls Hubert Davis

May 18th 1994: Scottie Pippen fouls Hubert Davis

With 2.1 seconds remaining and the Knicks down 1, Scottie Pippen fouled Hubert Davis as he attempted a 23 foot jump shot (foot on the line). Pippen hit Davis’ right forearm after the release and drew the foul call by ref Hue Hollins.

Davis hit both free throws to put the Knicks ahead 87-86 for the victory. The win put the Knicks ahead 3-2 heading back to Chicago for Game 6. Despite Michael Jordan’s absence from the team, the Bulls put up a hard fought battle against the Knicks by winning every home game and taking the series to 7. The Bulls were on the brink to victory in Game 5 to potentially upset the Knicks’ eventual NBA Finals run.

The Bulls vigorously complained about the foul call after the game. Eventually, Darrell Garretson, the head of NBA officiating, admitted the foul call was a mistake. Knick fans thought otherwise.

On This Date: Derek Harper/Jo Jo English Brawl

May 13th 1994: The Derek Harper/Jo Jo English Fight

Derek Harper entered into Knick folklore after wrestling with Jo Jo English in the 2nd quarter of Game 3 against the Chicago Bulls. After confronting each other at the three point line, the fight escalated into the stands starting an all-out brawl. The fight itself was right in front of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who predictably was shocked at what he was witnessing. Both benches cleared to breakup the fight, leading to separate tussles between players, including John Starks, and the security guards.

The Knicks ultimately lost Game 3 104-102. As for the repercussions, the NBA suspended Harper 2 games and English 1 game for their role in the brawl. The NBA fined more than 8 players on each team, outside of Harper & English, for leaving the bench in the altercation. Beginning in the next season, the NBA began to enforce 1 game suspensions for any player who leaves the bench during an altercation. This rule was provoked largely due to this fight and the infamous Greg Anthony/Suns brawl. Unfortunately for the Knicks, this rule change would come to bite them in the 1997 playoffs against the Miami Heat.

 

On This Date: Knicks make statement in victory against the Seattle Supersonics

January 29, 1994: The New York Knicks make a statement to the #1 seed Seattle Supersonics in a road victory

The New York Knicks, in the middle of a three-game West Coast trip, sent a strong message to the #1 seed Seattle Supersonics with a 106-92 victory. Seven players scored in double figures, including the entire starting lineup, led by Patrick Ewing’s 21 points and 18 rebounds. Anthony Mason scored 17 points off the bench and Charles Oakley had a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Despite trailing 58-51 at the end of the 1st half, the Knicks went on a 21-5 run in the 3rd quarter and outscored the Sonics 32-13 to take a 12 point lead heading into the 4th quarter.

Both the Knicks (29-11) & Sonics (31-9) cruised atop the standings in their respective conferences. Due to Micheal Jordan’s sudden retirement, many in the NBA circles believed that this game was a foreshadowing of an NBA Finals matchup. The youthful duo of Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp led the Sonics to victories and many highlight-reel plays. Detlef Schrempf & Kendall Gill provided ample scoring from the wing positions.

The Knicks eventually had the best record in Atlantic Division (#2 overall in the East) and the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference. However, Dikembe Mutombo and the Denver Nuggets had different plans. The Nuggets surprisingly upset the Sonics in the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Knicks did make it to the NBA Finals, but instead faced Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Derek Harper

January 6, 1994: The New York Knicks acquire Derek Harper

With Doc Rivers out for the remainder of the season with a torn left ACL, the Knicks acquired Derek Harper from the Dallas Mavericks for Tony Campbell and a 1997 1st Round Draft Pick (John Thomas).

Rivers’ injury threatened to derail the Knicks’ strong start to the season and quickly end their championship hopes. Acquiring Harper gave the Knicks a defensive-minded point guard who brought a veteran presence to the team. Harper averaged 8.6 points/game, 4.4 assists/game, and 1.5 steals/game with the Knicks during the 1993-94 season.

Harper initially came off the bench with the Knicks, while Greg Anthony remained the starting point guard. He eventually replaced Anthony as the starting point guard in March. Harper’s presence helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals for the first time since they won the championship in 1973. He remained with the Knicks for two more seasons before returning to the Mavericks for the 1996-97 season.

 

On This Date: Knicks-Nuggets Brawl and Patrick Ewing becomes Knicks all-time leading scorer

December 16, 2006: The New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets engage in the worst brawl since the Malice in the Palace

A game that was seemingly heading into a blowout loss for the Knicks turned into one of the most infamous days in team history.  With 1:15 left in the game and the Nuggets up 19, Knick rookie Mardy Collins flagrantly fouled future Knicks JR Smith by the neck as he was driving to the hoop for a dunk.

Both players shoved each other and Nate Robinson further instigated the brawl by shoving and tackling JR Smith.  Various players went to separate both JR and Nate including Jared Jeffries and future Knick Carmelo Anthony.

Melo inexplicably decided to punch Mardy Collins and ran away from him as both Jared Jeffries & Collins both ran up to half court to confront him.  Unlike the Malice in the Palace, the altercation didn’t involve fan interaction.  However, the refs ejected all 10 players on the court in an unprecedented move.

In the aftermath of the brawl, Nate Robinson received a 10 game suspension for instigating the fight.  Mardy Collins received a 6 game suspension for the foul by the neck and Jared Jeffries received a 4 game suspension for chasing Carmelo Anthony.  Jerome James received a 1 game suspension for leaving the bench.

The NBA suspended Carmelo Anthony 15 games for reigniting the brawl with the punch.  The NBA suspended JR Smith 10 games for tussling with Nate Robinson.

Despite the player suspensions, the NBA decided not to suspend either Isiah Thomas or George Karl for their roles in the fight.  The NBA briefly investigated Isiah for a potential role in triggering the fight.  Isiah supposedly warned Melo not to go into the paint.  However, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to suspend him.  Several outlets also criticized Karl for leaving his star players in the game during a blowout.

This was one of the last significant brawls that involved multiple punches and lengthy suspensions.2  The melee further exposed the chaos around the Knicks and Nate Robinson’s relative lack of maturity that haunted him throughout his NBA career.  However, Carmelo Anthony & JR Smith faced significant repercussions after the brawl.  The brawl pained a negative image onto Melo and it took many years for him to shed that negative depiction of him.  For JR Smith, the brawl further cemented his reputation as a headcase in the league.


December 16th 1993:  Patrick Ewing becomes the Knicks All-Time Leading Scorer

Patrick Ewing had a double double with 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Knicks past the Los Angeles Lakers 108-85.  Ewing became the Knicks all-time leading scorer and past Walt “Clyde” Frazier’s record of 14,617 points.

Ewing ended up with 23,665 points as a New York Knick.  To put that number in perspective, Allan Houston scored 11,165 points in just over 8 seasons as a Knick.  Carmelo Anthony scored 10,186 points in nearly 6+ seasons as a Knick.

It’s fair to say that any current Knick would need to remain with the team for more than 15 years to come remotely close to reaching Ewing’s scoring record.

On This Date: Ewing scores 44 to lead Knicks to win in Cleveland

November 7th 1993: Ewing scores 44 points to lead the Knicks to an 115-107 overtime win in Cleveland

Ewing won the battle against the former #1 pick (1986) Brad Daugherty with 44 points and 10 rebounds in 43 minutes. Daugherty led the Cavs with 26 points and 11 rebounds in 45 minutes.  Danny Ferry had 21 points for the Cavs while Mark Price scored 19 points and 12 assists.

Charles Oakley nearly had a 20-20 effort with 19 points and 22 rebounds. Doc Rivers led the team with 11 assists. 

After the Knicks exited the 1st half down 11, the team made a mounted comeback in the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 2.  Despite shooting 2-13 from the field, John Starks hit the game-tying three to force the game to overtime.

The Knicks controlled the game in overtime and their defense held the Cavs scoreless in the final 4 minutes.