By Ben Horney, Knicks fan since '94
Playoff games aren't always as easy or fun as Game 2 against the Pacers was this past Tuesday. There won't always be incredible 30-2 runs. It's not reasonable to expect Pablo Prigioni's Beethoven-esque orchestration, Iman Shumpert's emotionally emphatic put-backs and Carmelo Anthony's pinpoint shooting all the time. Sometimes you have to win ugly.
Take Game 2 of the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals, for instance, played 13 years ago today. Having lost Game 1 in Miami, the Knicks were in dire need of a win, and they clawed and scratched their way to an 82-76 victory to even up the series. But boy was it ugly.
Six Knicks scored in double figures that night. While that's usually a sign of sharp, flowing offense, the high scorers for the Knicks were Patrick Ewing and Charlie Ward, with just 13 points each. Allan Houston and Larry Johnson were right on their tails, scoring 12 points each, while Latrell Sprewell (11 points) and Marcus Camby (10 points) rounded out the Knicks double figure men. Those six players had a total of 71 points on 33% shooting, and as a team, the Knicks shot 35% from the field.
But as I mentioned, the Knicks did a lot of clawing and scratching. Their stout defense, which included seven blocks and six steals, led to 12 Heat turnovers and only 76 points on 34% shooting. Jamal Mashburn led the way for the Heat, scoring 25 points as the game's most capable player on offense. Alonzo Mourning added 17 points and 17 rebounds, but shot just 5-for-18 from the field (28%) and 7-for-13 from the free throw line (54%).
Both Jeff Van Gundy (Knicks) and Pat Riley (Heat) were in their fifth years as head coaches of these two Eastern conference rivals. It was the fifth consecutive year that the two teams had met in the playoffs AND split the first two games of the series.
There were 60 total fouls in the game. To put that in perspective, Knicks playoff games this year have had an average of 40 fouls per game. People tend to throw the word rivalry around a lot nowadays -- this was a rivalry.
Our favorite recently-retired Knick, Rasheed Wallace, was also in action that night, as a Portland Trail Blazer. His Blazers destroyed the Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz, 103-85, to take a 2-0 advantage in that series, with Wallace contributing 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Besides Camby and Wallace, no other current Knicks were in action that night, although Jason Kidd's Phoenix Suns were in the playoffs, themselves.
Mike Woodson was an assistant coach with the Shawn Kemp-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Iman Shumpert was 9 years old. Carmelo Anthony, just 20 days away from his 16th birthday, wouldn't even suit up for Syracuse for another two years.
That night, the Knicks showed they could win as a team, even when, as a team, they weren't playing so well. Even though the shots weren't dropping, the Knicks did what they had to do and won an ugly, grind-it-out playoff game on the road. When the going gets tough this postseason, let's hope today's Knicks follow suit.