On This Date: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning face off in the playoffs for the first time

May 9th 1993: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning’s first NBA Playoffs matchup

Former Georgetown Hoya alums Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning faced each other in the NBA Playoffs for the first time on this date. For Ewing, this was his 6th straight season in the playoffs. For Zo, this was his 1st experience in the NBA Playoffs as this was his rookie campaign with the Charlotte Hornets. After Ewing graduated from Georgetown in 1985, the university waited 3 years until Mourning & Dikembe Mutombo both arrived on campus to man the Hoya frontcourt.

As for the playoff game itself, the vastly experience Knicks defeated the Hornets 111-95 in Game 1. This was the Hornets’ first year in the NBA Playoffs. Ewing won the battle against Zo with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Zo had a respectable performance with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but also committed 7 turnovers. His lack of experience1 proved to be costly as Ewing took advantage of him both defensively and offensively. Zo allowed Ewing to feast on the perimeter where his patented jump shot proved to be key to victory.

Anthony Mason had a double double off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds, & 5 assists in 38 minutes. There were several former and future Knicks on the Hornets roster at the time. Larry Johnson, a then 2nd year player, missed most of the game with a sprained right leg. Former Knicks Johnny Newman & Sidney Green played a decent role for the Hornets in Game 1. Newman started and scored 18 points in 28 minutes. Future Knick David Wingate, who’d become merely a garbage time presence with the team, entered in garbage time for the Hornets.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing scores 44 to rout the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

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.

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: Knicks score 133 to shock Pistons

November 23, 1988: Knicks utilize half-court trap and three pointers to shock the Detroit Pistons 133-111 in the Palace of Auburn Hills

The road to the championship for the Detroit Pistons, who went into the game 9-1, approached a bump in the road against Rick Pitino & the New York Knicks.  The combination of aggressive half-court traps and 3-point shots stifled the Pistons, who came into the game limiting opponents to only 98.6 points per game, a mark 2nd in the league.

Patrick Ewing led the way with 37 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, & 4 blocks and made 12-15 from the free throw line.  However, Johnny Newman & Trent Tucker played pivotal roles in the victory.  Newman & Tucker scored a combined 44 points on 8-13 from three.  The team overall shot 9-16 from three point distance.2

The game also showcased the combo point guard duo of Mark Jackson & Rod Strickland.  Both point guards got playing time together with the injury of Gerald Wilkins.  Jackson had a double double with 14 points and 14 assists.  Strickland had 9 points and 5 assists in 15 minutes.

The Pitino system frustrated the Pistons the entire night.  Pitino established the interior game with Ewing to draw fouls and open the floor for three point shots.  The team hit 35 free throws compared to 11 for the Pistons.  The aggressive trapping led to 22 Pistons turnovers and easy buckets (including threes) for the Knicks.  Future Knick GM Isiah Thomas committed 7 turnovers and, after the game, admitted the half-court press was “murder.”

On This Date: “Bomb Squad” roster wins their first regular season game against the Chicago Bulls

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.