On This Date: Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson win their first playoff series

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.

On This Date: Knicks beat Kings without King

January 31st 1983: The New York Knicks, sans Bernard King, beat the Kansas City Kings

The New York Knicks routed the Kansas City Kings 114-97 despite the fact that Bernard King was inactive due to a sprained right ankle and Trent Tucker was held scoreless. 4 of the 5 starters scored at least 18 points to propel the team to victory. Power Forward Truck Robinson led the way with 21 points and had 5 assists. Paul Westphal shined on both the offensive and defensive end with 18 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals. Bill Cartwright had a double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Louis Orr replaced King in the starting lineup and scored 20 points.

The Knicks’ tenacious defense helped open up the game in the 2nd half. After only leading by 4 at half, the Knicks scored 31 points in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters to seal the victory. Their pressure defense led to an 18-2 run to start the 3rd fueled by 6 steals. Additionally, the team shot nearly 51% from the field in an efficient effort.

The 1982-83 Knicks, led by Bernard King and coached by Hubie Brown, made the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals where the eventual champion Philadelphia 76ers swept them in 4 games. Outside of the notable players (King, Cartwright, Tucker), there were a few interesting names on the roster and coaching staff.

Mike Fratello was an assistant coach on Hubie Brown’s staff for the 1982-83 season. He left to coach the Atlanta Hawks. Isiah Thomas almost considered hiring him as head coach after he fired Don Chaney. Future Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld finished his NBA career with the Knicks in 1986. He then moved to covering the games on MSG before becoming assistant coach under Stu Jackson. He became GM of the Knicks in 1991.

The Knicks acquired Truck Robinson in a trade with the Suns for Maurice Lucas. Truck spent his final 2+ seasons with the Knicks, but notably helped the Knicks sweep the Nets in the first round of the 1983 playoffs. The Knicks acquired Louis Orr right before the season from the Indiana Pacers for a 2nd round pick in the 1983 NBA Draft. Orr spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and mostly produced off the bench except for Patrick Ewing’s rookie season (1985-86) with Bernard King sidelined due to injury.

Furthermore, future NBA coach Paul Westphal spent around 1.5 seasons with the Knicks. He spent most of his prime splitting time as a reserve with the Boston Celtics (winning a championship in 1974) and as a budding superstar with the Phoenix Suns. Westphal made 5 straight All-Star teams with the Suns and helped the team reach the finals in 1976. A foot injury in 1981 cut short his prime and he later joined the Knicks in 1982. Westphal went into coaching in both the NBA and NCAA. He enjoyed slightly more success in the NBA leading the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns to an NBA Finals in his first season. After Charles Barkley left the Suns in 1995, Westphal never seemed to recover the coaching magic achieved in the early stages of his career.

On This Date: The birth of the Trent Tucker rule and the Marcus Camby punch almost heard around the world

January 15, 1990: The game that birthed the Trent Tucker Rule

On this memorable MLK day in 1990, Trent Tucker enshrined himself into Knicks folklore with a buzzer-beating shot to defeat the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. With the game tied at 106, Tucker received the inbounds pass and made the game-winning three pointer with 0.1 seconds left to win the game 109-106.

Upon further review, the clock didn’t start until Tucker’s shot was in mid-air. Consequently, Phil Jackson, then first-year head coach of the Bulls, filed a protest with the league. The argument, which is valid, stated that it’s impossible to receive a pass and shoot the basketball in less than 0.1 seconds. However, timekeeper Bob Billings and head referee Ronnie Nunn disagreed with the premise and stated that the calls on the floor were correct. As a result, the NBA disallowed their protest.

Around that time, then-commissioner David Stern recently required NBA arenas to comply with a FIBA rule to register tenths of seconds within the final minute of each quarter. Most of the scoreboards used at the time – manufactured by American Sign & Indicator (AS&I)1 – were not able to accurately register fractions of seconds. In some instances, there would be games where the shot clock would freeze at 0.1 seconds.

After the game, Stern further required all arenas to calibrate their shot clocks. Eventually, most teams transitioned from AS&I scoreboards to the Daktronics models seen in most areas.

More importantly, Stern instituted the “Trent Tucker Rule” where a shot can’t be taken with less than 0.3 seconds on the clock. The rule doesn’t prohibit tip-ins or alley-oops, especially in the case of David Lee’s basket in the 2006-07 season.


January 15, 2001: The Marcus Camby punch that almost connected

In what appeared to be a drama-free blowout on MLK day in MSG, Marcus Camby had other plans on that particular afternoon. With just over 3 minutes left in the game, Marcus Camby received an flagrant (or maybe intentional?) strike from Danny Ferry near his eye after attempting to grab an offensive rebound. As the refs attempted to eject Ferry, Camby lunged into Ferry, causing some refs to restrain him.

After things seemed to dissipate and as Ferry was heading towards the locker room, Camby inexplicably went after Ferry to punch him. Instead of striking Ferry, he instead headbutted Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy needed to receive more than a dozen stitches after the game due to bleeding from a gash above his eye.

After the game, the NBA suspended Camby 5 games for the attempted punch and headbutt. Danny Ferry received a 1 game suspension for his flagrant foul. It was disappointing for the Knicks, especially since the team won 9 of their previous 10 games. It was another instance of a lack of compsure that plagued some of the Knicks (i.e. Chris Childs, Kurt Thomas) during their playoff heyday.

 

On This Date: Red Holzman sets the Knick record for most coaching victories

January 12, 1974: Red Holzman sets club record in head coaching victories

The New York Knicks defeated the Golden State Warriors 96-80. In the victory, Red Holzman set a club record with 327 regular season victories. He surpassed the record held by Joe Lapchick. Lapchick coached the Knicks for eight seasons between 1948-1956.

Red eventually reached 613 total wins over 14 seasons with the Knicks. The team recognized his coaching feat by retiring the number 613 in the rafters in 1990. In a testament to the rapid turnover of coaches, no coach outside of Holzman or Lapchick coached more than seven seasons with the Knicks. Jeff Van Gundy coached part of the 1995-96 and 2001-02 seasons, but only coached five full seasons with the team. Only Van Gundy & Pat Riley exceeded 200 wins as Knick coaches (248 and 223 respectively).


January 12, 1989: The New York Knicks rout the Charlotte Hornets 106-89

The Charlotte Hornets made their first visit to Madison Square Garden as an inaugural franchise. Unfortunately for them, the Knicks routed the Hornets 106-89. Mark Jackson led the Knicks with 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Both Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley netted double doubles.

The Knicks started the game very sloppy. The team committed 15 turnovers in the 1st half and held a tie game with the 9-24 Hornets roster. In a desperation move, coach Rick Pitino inserted Trent Tucker into the starting lineup for the 2nd half and the defensive pressure intensified. The Knicks went on a 15-0 run in the 3rd quarter and ballooned the lead to 22 points by the end of the 3rd quarter.

The 1988-89 season marked the Hornets’ inaugural season. The team was one of four franchises – the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Orlando Magic were the other three – that the NBA included in their expansion plans. The Heat & Hornets began their inaugural season in 1988-89 while the Magic & Timberwolves began in 1989-90.

The Hornets struggled for their first few seasons, but stockpiled several young players including Muggsy Bogues, Kendall Gill, Larry Johnson, & Alonzo Mourning. The quartet helped lead the team to their first playoff berth in 1992-93. While upsetting the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, they faced strong headwinds against a veteran-laden Knicks roster. The Knicks easily routed the Hornets in 5 games.

 

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.

On This Date: Knicks Open 1990-1991 Season with an overtime win against the Charlotte Hornets

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).