’93-94 Knicks In Review, Pt. 2
Ex-players, coaches and others close to the ’93-’94 Knicks remember the postseason journey.
Game 5 was back in New York and this one would be as much of a nailbiter as Game 3. With 7.6 seconds left and the Bulls up 86-85, Oakley took the inbounds pass in front of the scorers’ table at halfcourt. After a delay of game warning on the Bulls, Starks received the pass from Oakley between half court and the top of the three-point line. Dribbling to the right wing and then circling toward the paint, Starks drew defenders to him and passed back out to Hubert Davis at the top of the three-point line.
Pippen, who was near the bottom of the free throw circle when Starks passed it, tried to recover to contest Davis as he shot it with 3.5 seconds left. Leaping in an attempt to block or deflect the shot, Pippen seemingly caught part of Davis’ arm. It wasn’t clear in real-time if he had or hadn’t, but referee Hue Hollins called Pippen for a two-shot foul. (Davis’ right foot was on the line.)
“[Pippen] didn’t get [Davis'] arm,” Gaines said. “What he got…and this is why people object because it was a call that, the hand is part of the ball. He actually got Hubert’s hand. He didn’t get the arm. Believe me, I don’t even have to look at the replay. [Laughs] That play is stuck in every Bulls employee or fan’s memory because they played it over and over and over. I think after Hubert released the ball, Scottie makes contact with his hand. Traditionally, that play is not something that is called, especially in that type of moment.”
By the time the ball had gotten to the rim and the call was made, only 2.1 seconds remained. Davis made both free throws to put the Knicks up 87-86. That would be the final score, as the Bulls didn’t get a shot off on their subsequent possession. It should be noted that Greg Anthony, in a fill-in role for Harper, scored 11 points and dished eight assists in 40 minutes.
Game 6 was a rout in the Bulls’ favor, 93-79, despite Ewing’s 26 and 14. That set up just the second Game 7 between the Knicks and Bulls during the six years in which they played each other in the postseason. The game was anti-climatic.
Although it was played relatively close, the Knicks pulled away at the end. The final score, 87-77 Knicks, perhaps doesn’t fully represent the sense of accomplishment for the team. It wasn’t an end-of-game thriller like Games 3 and 5. It’s not remembered as a classic. Yet to finally overcome the Bulls was a gigantic step for the Knicks in their quest to win a title.
“We had a hell of a team,” said Jeff Van Gundy, then an assistant coach for the Knicks. “We were tough, and we were disciplined.”
D’Agostino said the Madison Square Garden crowd was as loud toward the end of Game 7 as it was any other time that ’93-94 season.
“If you were a fan, you allowed yourself to think, ‘Wow they finally climbed the biggest mountain,’” D’Agostino said. “‘They finally cleared the biggest hurdle. They finally beat the Bulls. Whatever happens now is what’s going to happen now but they finally beat the Bulls.’”
Anthony said the Knicks’ discipline, to which Van Gundy had referred, was derived from Pat Riley.
“Philosophically, he believes in keeping things simple,” Anthony said over the phone. “The repetition you put into practice, into conditioning your body, to be able to compete at the highest level, [deal with] adversity, all the things that his entire methodology prepared his team for.”
Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Pacers
On to Indiana. The Pacers would be the Knicks’ Eastern Conference Finals opponent, a team which had previously lost four consecutive first rounds. In fact, ’93-94 was the first season the Pacers advanced beyond the second round since ’74-75, when they were still a member of the ABA.
The Pacers were a young team; their primary core was 28 years old or younger – Reggie Miller (28), Rik Smits (27), Derrick McKey (27), Dale Davis (24). Their heady veteran, Byron Scott (32), had won three NBA titles with Riley as his coach on the ’80s Showtime Lakers.
Game 1 was taken handily by the Knicks, 100-89. Ewing had a 28 and 11 with six blocks while Oakley contributed 20 points and 13 ‘boards. Reggie Miller was just 1-for-2 from beyond the arc and had 14 points.
Game 2 didn’t turn out any differently, as Ewing’s 32 and 13 fueled the Knicks’ 89-78 victory. Miller dropped 23 points but was just 1-for-5 from three-point land. Game 3 was a different story for each team.
Back in Indianapolis, the Pacers churned out an 88-68 blowout win. Only three Knicks scored in double-digits while the Pacers’ entire starting five achieved that distinction. Again, Miller struggled from outside, going 0-for-1 and again scoring 14. The series had been one double-digit win after another, but that would end in Game 4.
In that game, the losing team once again scored under 80 points. And, again, it was the Knicks, who lost 83-77. Miller erupted for 31 points, although 17 of those came at the charity stripe. He was 0-for-1 from three-point. Each team had won both its home games, which was a continuing theme for the Knicks during the playoffs.
In the first round, the Nets landed their lone win on their home floor. In the Bulls series, each team won at home, accentuating the importance of home court advantage in the NBA playoffs. Those were still the days when the Bulls played in Chicago Stadium, the Celtics in the Boston Garden and the Pacers in Market Square Arena – all of which were replaced by new venues in the mid- to late ’90s. D’Agostino remembered Market Square, in particular.
“The stands went up and up forever, it was steep as hell, it was just one big bowl,” he said. “It didn’t have levels like the modern arenas do. It just went straight up, and that was a tough place to play.”
The Knicks and Pacers would go back to Madison Square Garden (still standing) for Game 5. That’s when the series would change, and when the NBA would get one of its most revered playoff moments.