May 4th 1990: Patrick Ewing scores 44 to rout the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
After the Knicks won Game 3 at home, Patrick Ewing carried the Knicks with 44 points in a 135-108 victory in an elimination game against the Boston Celtics. Ewing scored 44 on 18-24 from the field and 8-9 from the free throw line. He also had 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals, and 2 blocked shots in a game that would resemble heaven for a fantasy basketball player.
With the Knicks up 8 at halftime, they expanded the lead to 18 in the 3rd quarter. The lead eventually ballooned all the way to 37 points by the 4th quarter and brought the Celtics to a point of no return.
The Celtics had no answer for Ewing as he just simply dominated in the post. With the Knicks down 2-0 in the series, and also being a victim of allowing an NBA playoff record 157 points in Game 2, Ewing took the brunt of the responsibility to lead the team to the Semifinals. This game 4 effort helped Ewing put on an encore performance in Game 5 to come back and defeat the Celtics.
Additionally, Gerald Wilkins & Johnny Newman scored 20 and 24 points respectively in the victory.
May 2nd 1989: Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson win their first playoff series to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals
Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time in their NBA careers while the Knicks won their first playoff series since Bernard King led the crusade in the 1983-84 season. The Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime 116-115 to complete the three game sweep. As Ewing struggled most of the evening, Gerald Wilkins came to the team’s rescue by knocking down the go-ahead 19 foot jumper with 6 seconds left in overtime.
Although the Knicks swept the 76ers, the 3 game matchup proved to be very close and was only decided by a couple clutch baskets. Mark Jackson hit a clutch 3 point basket in Game 1 while Trent Tucker hit the go-ahead shot in Game 2. The series marked a significant contrast to the previous season where the Boston Celtics easily defeated the Knicks in 4 games.
Knicks broadcasting legend John Andariese (aka Johnny Hoops) passed away on this date in 2017. The native of Brooklyn spent more than 40 years as the Knicks basketball analyst on both TV and radio. He served as the battery mate for Marv Albert for more than 25 years on the radio and on MSG Network beginning in 1972. He spent one year as the battery mate for Mike Breen before spending the remainder of his career working on the radio alongside various play-by-play announcers such as Marv Albert, Mike Breen, Gus Johnson, and Spero Dedes. I vividly remember listening to Johnny Hoops on the radio throughout the 2000s even when the Knicks were in the doldrums of the NBA.
Outside of the Knicks, Andariese spent more than 10 years as the college basketball TV analyst for NBC Sports between the 80s and 90s. He also hosted a show on NBA TV called NBA Legends with Johnny Hoops. After retiring from broadcasting in 2012, the Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Johnny Hoops as a Curt Gowdy award winner.
March 13th 1990: Gerald Wilkins and Michael Jordan face off in another tough battle
In one of many battles against the Chicago Bulls, it was the Gerald Wilkins & Michael Jordan subplot that became an interesting subplot in the game. While the Bulls defeated the Knicks 111-108, both Wilkins & MJ combined for 60 points and shot over 57% from the field. MJ scored 34 while Wilkins scored 26.
Self-dubbed as the “Jordan Stopper” in the late 80s and early 90s, Wilkins reveled in the few battles fought against Jordan. Wilkins often defended Jordan and made him work for his points on the offensive end. The rivalry lasted until the beginning of Jordan’s first retirement in 1993.
March 6th 1987: Gerald Wilkins outscored Michael Jordan in a rare feat during the 1986-87 season
In a rare feat during the 1986-87 season, Gerald Wilkins outscored Michael Jordan 33-31 to help the Knicks defeat the Bulls 110-109 in Chicago. Patrick Ewing scored 31 points and hit the go-ahead basket with 8 seconds left. Ultimately it was Jawann Oldham, acquired by the Knicks from the Bulls before the season, who blocked Jordan’s final shot attempt to preserve the victroy.
Wilkins’ feat was impressive as it was only the 2nd time that a guard outscored MJ and only the 7th person overall to do so during the season. MJ averaged 37.1 points/game during the 1986-87 season, a feat only Wilt Chamberlain topped, Kobe Bryant nearly reached, and one that James Harden could potentially eclipse. It was impressive for any player to outscore MJ that season.
Wilkins was also on a torrid scoring streak, averaging nearly 28 points a game over his last 11 games. He went on to average over 19 points a game during the 1986-87 season. While not as flashy as his brother Dominique, Gerald did spend a few seasons participating in the dunk contest and was often the starting SG during his tenure with the Knicks.
His tough matchups unexpectedly, according to Wilkins, gave him the nickname of “Jordan Stopper” when the Cleveland Cavaliers signed him before the 1992-93 season. MJ outdueled Wilkins in the 1993 NBA Playoffs in what amounted to be their last playoff matchup against each other.
December 7, 1991: Patrick Ewing & Dominique Wilkins face off in a head-to-head matchup, but Ewing comes out victorious in a 137-128 thriller in double OT
December 7th 1991 marked a head-to-head duel between two of the top scoring phenoms in the league: Patrick Ewing & Dominique Wilkins. Ewing dominated inside the paint with a variety of low post moves and a reliable midrange shot. Dominique dominated the game with an array of dunks, spin moves, and midrange jumpshots.
On this date, both players combined for 95 points in the Knicks double overtime thriller. Ewing scored 43 points with 14 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 55% shooting. Dominique scored 52 points shooting 57% from the field and 16-18 from the free throw stripe.
Additionally, Dominique’s younger brother Gerald Wilkins scored 26 points on 11-18 from the field to complement Ewing. Despite scoring exactly 1/2 the amount of points, the younger Wilkins came out victorious.
Unlike previous seasons, the Knicks showed an ability to persevere and mount timely comebacks. The team was down by 10 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the 4th quarter and were able to tie the game and send it to overtime. The victory was equally impressive as it came off the 2nd game in a road back-to-back, of which the team lost the first game 103-92 to the Boston Celtics.
November 8th 1988: Knicks win 1st game of the regular season to officially begin the “Bomb Squad” era
After losing the first two games of the regular season on the road, the Knicks got back into control in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. Johnny Newman scored a then-career high 35 points in a 126-117 home victory against the Chicago Bulls in Madison Square Garden. Newman scored 35 efficiently, shooting 12-15 from the field, 2-3 from three, and 9-10 from the free throw line.
Patrick Ewing, hampered with foul troubled during the first two regular season games, bounced back with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Charles Oakley faced his former team for the 1st time and ended the game with a modest statline of 6 points and 6 rebounds.
The 1988-1989 season was famously known to fans as the “Bomb Squad” era.
20 years before Mike D’Antoni came into MSG to encourage his players to shoot more threes, Rick Pitino instructed his roster to perform the same task. Pitino believed it was necessary to surround Ewing with enough three point shooters to provide the big man with space to feast in the paint.
The Knicks set a record with 386 three pointers made and 1,147 attempted. The 1,147 was over 400 attempts higher than the record set in the previous season. The Knicks won 52 games in the regular season and Ewing led the team scoring 23 points a game while hitting a career high 57% from the field.
The “Bomb Squad” consisted of Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Trent Tucker, Johnny Newman, & Gerald Wilkins. Tucker shot 2-3 from three in the game and led the team with three pointers made during the season (118 made at 40%). Johnny Newman ended up tripling his three-point attempts from the season before and ended the year with 97 three-pointers made on 287 attempts (34%). Mark Jackson, in his sophomore season, doubled his three point attempts and ended the season shooting 81-240 from three in 72 games. Strickland funnily never got comfortable shooting threes and never shot many threes after leaving the Knicks.
The temptation of the NCAA and the recruiting power lured Pitino to the Kentucky Wildcats. The “Bomb Squad” era slowly flamed out as the team reverted back to attempting a more normal, or normal at the time, 710 three-pointers, which still ranked 5th in the league. Pitino brought a very innovative style of basketball to the Knicks and it only makes us wonder what would have happened if he remained with the team during Ewing’s prime.
November 6, 1992: Knicks open 1992-1993 season with 106-94 win on the road against the Atlanta Hawks
Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The trio of Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, & John Starks each scored in double figures with 15, 10, & 18 points, respectively.
More importantly, this game marked life in the post-Mark Jackson era. Right before the end of the offseason, the Knicks traded Mark Jackson in a three-way trade with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers for Doc Rivers & Charles Smith.
For the Knicks, their plan was clear: make and win the NBA finals in Ewing’s prime.
This trade helped provide the Knicks with the necessary reinforcements to surround their franchise player. While Mark Jackson had a solid 1991-92 season, Doc Rivers provided the necessary veteran leadership at the point guard position. Additionally, Charles Smith, before being infamously known for the missed layups, was a former 20 point scorer that provided length and the ability to block shots at either forward position. More importantly, Smith helped fill a void once Xavier McDaniel left for the Boston Celtics in free agency.
Additionally, the Knicks also let Kiki Vandeweghe and Gerald Wilkins go after the end of the previous season. The team replaced both players by trading for both Rolando Blackman and Tony Campbell. Both players provided the necessary veteran presence at the guard and small forward positions respectively.
For Doc Rivers, this game was also important because it marked his return against his former team. Rivers ended the game only scoring 8 points, but did dish out 6 assists.
Tony Campbell slotted into the vacated small forward position and scored 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in his debut. Charles Smith came off the bench to score 8 points in 8 minutes.
November 2nd 1990: Knicks open the season with a 134-130 overtime win against the Charlotte Hornets
Patrick Ewing led the team with 38 points, 12 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 4 assists on 14-23 FGM and 10-14 FTM. Ewing was joined by 4 other players who scored in double figures, including 25 points from Gerald Wilkins, and 22 points and 7 assists from Mark Jackson. Additionally, Charles Oakley secured 15 rebounds and 4 assists for the Knicks.
The game also marked the debut of Knick rookie Jerrod Mustaf, picked 17th by the organization in the 1990 NBA Draft. Mustaf scored 4 points in 13 minutes. Mustaf played sparingly during his rookie campaign and was dealt shortly before the 1991-92 season, along with Trent Tucker and two second-round draft picks for Xavier “X-Man” McDaniels. Mustaf only played four nondescript seasons in the league and X-Man had a productive season with the Knicks before departing in free agency in the following season.
The Knick bench also featured several notable players who started the season with injuries. One of those players was a tenacious guard in John Starks. Starks notoriously made the roster after he sprained his right knee trying to dunk over Patrick Ewing. Since Starks was a training camp invite, the team could only release him if he was fully healthy by December. As his recover period went beyond December, the Knicks were forced to keep him on the roster.
Additionally, Trent Tucker was on the roster, but was not active for the game due to a bruised heel. Tucker is now infamously known for the the “Trent Tucker Rule” where a shot can’t be taken if there is less than 0.3 seconds on the clock. The Trent Tucker Rule was officially adopted for the 1990-1991 season after Tucker hit the infamous shot on MLK day in the previous season. Tucker was later traded, with Mustaf, for X-Man.
Kenny “Sky” Walker was also on the bench, but was hindered by chronic knee injuries that season. The rash of injuries ultimately led him overseas with a 2-year pitstop with the Washington Wizards (f/k/a/ Bullets).