Saturday, May 7, 2011
This Day In Painful Knicks History
I wrote in pretty graphic detail, the levels of pain that Knicks fans have experienced through out the years and no moment was as mind numbingly agonizing as what took place on this date 16 years ago: Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds. This day is etched in the brain of all Knicks fans as probably the lowest point of the 90s (up until that finger roll a couple weeks later). The craziest part about the end to this particular game isn't even the blowing a 6 point lead in the final 18 seconds vs. your hated rival (a team hits a 3, forces another turnover or you miss free throws and they hit another 3 is not so crazy) it's the unbelievable combination of things that had to happen to get there.
Let's relive the trauma since that's the only way that we can truly conquer it:
Knicks by 6 with 18 seconds left and some of the Sunday afternoon crowd is happily filing for the exits to beat the traffic or go see Braveheart for the second time, or whatever it is people did on a Sunday afternoon in 1995. Mark Jackson (Ex-Knick New Yorker turned annoying Indiana jiggler) inbounds to Reggie for what seems like a stat padding 3 right in front of a standing Spike Lee. No big deal. Then, things get stupid: Mason drops back to inbound to Greg Anthony, but the Young Republican is either pushed or slips on his own (depending on who you ask) and is not able to pick himself up by his boot straps in the allotted 5 seconds. In normal circumstances like this, Mase could turn to the ref and call a time-out but by some dumb luck, the Knicks were fresh out. Riley (like his protege Van Gundy would turn out to be) was a notorious control freak who, unlike a Phil Jackson, used more time-outs than a yuppie parent. Combine this with the fact that the Knicks twice did the old "jumping out of bounds mid-air time-out to save possession" this afternoon (an Oakley specialty) and Mason had no choice but to throw it in much to everyone's horror right into Reggie's hands. Reggie may have many punk tendencies, but on the court you have to admit he has onions; instead of setting up a shot or going for a quick deuce, he dribbles out to the 3 point line and hits a game tying 3, to the dismay of all of New York and the enjoyment of Bill Walton ("TIE GAME!").
Now, if the Knicks had scored here or held for the last shot and missed or any combination of events not involving O.J. Simpson admitting his guilt on the court, this would still be one of the strangest endings in sports playoffs history. But it gets stupider: for some reason only known to him, future Raptors coach turned NBA tv analyst Sam Mitchell fouls John Starks on the other side of the court (we'll assume here that he was so shocked by what just happened that he thought the Knicks still had a lead). An 80 percent shooter known for his heart and grocery bagging skills, Starks stepped to the line and coolly butchered both shots. Can it get any worse? It sure can. Franchise savior Patrick Ewing gets the rebound and has a relatively open 10 footer. Off the back rim. Ouch. Then, to add to the once in a blue and orange moon idiocy of the afternoon, Mason (him again) fouls Reggie on the rebound of Ewing's miss. I suppose two foul shots are easier to take than another dagger 3, which Reggie would have undoubtedly nailed at the buzzer. Knicks have one more chance(still of course with no timeouts). Greg Anthony slips again (the hell was wrong with this guy?) and Reggie curses at the crowd, yelling "chokers" at who ever will listen leaving the rest of us to throw objects at our mother's televisions.
The planets aligned to beat the Knicks that day in ways that could never possibly repeat themselves. Firstly, the Knicks lack of time-outs could not happen again, since a rule was put in place soon after this season ended requiring both feet to be on the ground for a time-out to be granted. Mason still has a t.o. in his pocket and none of that ever happens (at least not in that order or crazy fashion). Secondly, this was the one season that the NBA (as it is apt to do) experimented with a shorter 3 point line in an effort to increase scoring. Jordan had just retired and the league had just seen the lowest scoring (as well as rated at that time) Finals in history and the Riley Knicks had converted the rest of the copy-cat league to defensive minded thug tactics resulting in games in the 70s and 80s. David Stern would sell his grandmother for t.v. ratings so the 3 line was moved in a few feet (you can clearly see the old line still there much like you see at college games at the Garden now). Reggie had practically limitless range so he almost definitely would have hit a 3 anyway, but who knows what that extra step would have meant (I'm reaching here but still). Lastly, Derrick McKey (remember him?) hit a first half shot that, upon replay, was clearly after the shot clock buzzer and should not have counted. Unfortunately, the NBA didn't implement the instant replay rule for another decade so those are 2 points Derrick McKey gets to keep as part of his illustrious career, but the Knicks can never get back.
This ending was so ridiculous that "pulling a Reggie Miller" has almost become part of the NBA vernacular as in "Don't leave just yet, the Bucks could still pull a Reggie".If you're a Knicks fans who sometimes feels like the basketball Gods are against you, and Murphy's law (everything that could possibly go wrong can and will) only applies to you; you're right.
May 7th, 1995: a day that will truly live in New York sports infamy.