Unsung Knick History – Duane Causwell, Iverson’s Big Steal and the Game No One Wanted to Win

This is the twenty-third in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of examinations into different games, events and decisions that impacted Knicks history in some way, shape or form. Stories that are not as famous as, say, “The Dunk” or Willis Reed playing Game 7, but still have a place in Knicks history, especially for die-hard fans. Here is an archive of all the stories featured so far.

Remember last week’s column about the 20-point comeback the Knicks had against the Miami Heat during the 1999 season? The comeback that spurred the Knicks on to make the playoffs? I originally was going to write about a much odder game from the 1999 season, but I figured that I would be remiss in not mentioning the comeback story first. Now that I’ve done so, we can examine one of the strangest games that the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat ever played – May 5, 1999, the game that neither team wanted to win!

Due to their 3-1 record against the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors collapsing, the Knicks entered their last game of the season with a playoff spot assured.

Meanwhile, with a defeat over the Atlanta Hawks a day earlier, the Heat had locked themselves into the best record in the Eastern Conference. They had a half game lead on the Indiana Pacers entering the May 5th game, but since they held the tie-breaker (if the Heat won, they would win due to the second tie-breaker, “record against conference,” as they would be 31-16 as opposed to the Pacers’ 30-15, and if the Heat lost, they would win due to the third-tie breaker, “record against playoff teams,” as the Heat would be 13-10 while the Pacers were actually under .500 against Eastern Conference playoff teams! The two teams split their season series together, 2-2, which is why they had to go the next level of tie-breakers).

The Knicks, meanwhile, entered the game trailing the Philadelphia 76ers by one game and the Milwaukee Bucks by two games. The Bucks entered the night as the #6 seed, the Sixers as the #7 seed and the Knicks as the #8 seed (the Knicks actually entered with the same record as the Hornets, who they had the tie-breaker against). If the Knicks won and the Sixers lost, the Knicks would get the #7 seed because they held the tie-breaker (they were 3-1 against the Sixers).

The Sixers, by the way, were playing the Detroit Pistons, who entered the night with the chance to steal the #4 seed (and homecourt in the first round) against the Atlanta Hawks. The Pistons trailed the Hawks by a game, but held the tie-breaker. The Sixers, meanwhile, held the tie-breaker against the Bucks if the Bucks lost. So the Sixers and the Pistons (who would be the first game that night) had a lot to play for in their game.

The Knicks and Heat, meanwhile, had something to play for – but not the way that you normally figure.

You see, the Heat had lost to this same Knicks team in the playoffs one year earlier, and the confidence that the Knicks showed in the aforementioned 20-point comeback at the end of April showed that the Knicks were very confident against the Heat. The Knicks, meanwhile, were not as confident about playing the #2 seeded Pacers, who had ousted the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs the previous season.

So here we had two teams who both preferred for the other team to win the game!

The Heat wanted the Knicks to get the #7 seed and the Knicks wanted to get the #8 seed.

However, the Heat obviously cared more about losing the game than the Knicks cared about losing the game (perhaps it was because the Knicks could win and still be the #8 seed, provided that the Sixers won), as you can see from the starting lineup that the Heat put out there.

Rex Walters started at the point in place of Tim Hardaway
Voshon Lenard started at shooting guard in place of Dan Majerle
and, yes, Duane Causwell started at center in place of Alonzo Mourning.

Hardaway, Majerle and Mourning all sat out the game entirely.

Jamal Mashburn and PJ Brown both started, as normal, but Brown only played 15 minutes (Terry Mills, on the other hand, played 29 minutes – Mills went on to play zero minutes in the playoffs, and there were two blowouts during the playoffs where the back-ups got to play some minutes, but Mills never got into the game).

On the Knicks’ end, Patrick Ewing and Chris Childs both sat out the game, so anyone expecting a tip-off between Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing instead got Chris Dudley and Duane Causwell!

I should apologize to Duane Causwell. The guy was a first round pick of the Sacramento Kings in 1990 and was a perfectly serviceable center for a number of years for the Kings, including a stint as Olden Polynice’s back-up when the Kings actually made it to the playoffs in 1996 (try to guess the Kings’ starting rotation in the 1996 Playoffs! The answer will be at the end of the column). And after finishing his career in Sacramento in 1997, he hung on as a back-up center in Miami for four seasons. 11 years in the NBA is nothing to sneeze at. So he really doesn’t deserve to be teased, but I really don’t mean any harm by it. Sorry, Duane!

In any event, also during the game, the Knicks saw Allan Houston and Larry Johnson play less minutes than David Wingate and Rick Brunson. Brunson, by the way, had a season-high 12 assists in the game. Ben Davis saw 1/7th of his season minutes in the game (3 minutes, to be precise).

So the Knicks seemed like they were trying a little harder than the Heat, but still, entering the third quarter, the Knicks “clung” to an eight-point lead. There was still plenty of time to mysteriously start missing baskets, if need be (and in fact, the Knicks’ lead was only three entering the fourth) especially as the Pistons were leading the Sixers late in the game. Not many people in the crowd knew that, though, as Jeff Van Gundy had team officials shut the scoreboard down in Madison Square Garden so that the players would not be distracted. However, team officials would let the coaching staff know, and during the third quarter, Van Gundy was informed that the Pistons were up 2 points with 20 seconds left and the Pistons had the ball. Van Gundy cursed under his breath. He had tried to pretend that he did not care what seed the Knicks received, but everyone knew they wanted the #8 seed and the Heat.

And then something amazing happened – down 2, Allen Iverson stole the ball from the Pistons, dribbled up court and hit a pullup jumper with 8 seconds left in the game to tie the score at 93 apiece! The Sixers would go on to win the game in overtime, something the Knicks learned of before the fourth quarter started. With their seeding locked in, the Knicks went for it, and crushed the Heat in the final period, winning 101-88.

After the game, Tim Hardaway said, ‘I think it was destiny, just destiny. So be it. They said they wanted us. They think they can beat us. They get their chance.”

The Knicks’ Larry Johnson exclaimed (referring to Dale Davis and Antonio Davis, who destroyed the Knicks in the 1998 Playoffs), “‘This is better than those Davis boys, man. With the Heat, if they call out a play, we know it before they do. And vice versa.”

PJ Brown had some ominous words, “I’m looking at the total picture. ‘I want to win it all. It doesn’t sound like you want to win it all when you’re setting it on one team. ” Well, as we know, the Heat did not win it all, as the Knicks matched up well enough to win the series 3-2 on a last-second shot in Game 5 by Allan Houston.

So I guess the Heat were right to have tried to lose!

The Sixers, by the way, ended up getting the #6 seed because the New Jersey Nets (led by Stephon Marbury’s 41 points) defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping the Bucks to the #7 seed. This became important because the Sixers actually defeated the #3 seed, the Orlando Magic. Okay, I guess in the long run it really didn’t matter at all (as the Pacers then swept the Sixers), but still, it was nice for the Sixers!

Thanks to Steve Popper and Selena Roberts for the great quotes from the game.

If you folks dig these stories, you’d probably also get a kick out of my Sports Legends Revealed site. There is an archive of the ones about basketball here. I also have one Sports Legend featured every Tuesday at the LA Times.

If you have any suggestions for future Unsung Knicks History pieces, drop me a line at cronb01@aol.com! I’d prefer you share your suggestions via e-mail rather than in the comments section, so we can keep them a surprise! Thanks!

(The 1996 Sacramento Kings’ starting rotation was:

PG Tyus Edney
SG Mitch Richmond
SF Billy Owens
PF Brian Grant
C Olden Polynice)

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38 thoughts to “Unsung Knick History – Duane Causwell, Iverson’s Big Steal and the Game No One Wanted to Win”

  1. “The Knicks’ Larry Johnson exclaimed (referring to Dale Davis and Antonio Davis, who destroyed the Knicks in the 1998 Playoffs), ‘This is better than those Davis boys, man. With the Heat, if they call out a play, we know it before they do. And vice versa.'”

    Love it!! All of the 90’s Knicks/Heat series are starting to mush together in my memory. ’99 was Allan Houston’s shot, ’97 was the P.J. Brown/Charlie Ward scuffle when the Heat won the series.

    ’98 was the LJ/’Zo brawl when the Knicks steamrolled the Heat in Game 5 w/o Ewing or LJ — no wonder they were cocky against the Heat in ’99! All of this is making me want a Knicks/Heat series this year.

    Maybe we should shoot for the 7 seed after all. Thanks Brian!

  2. Another nice piece, Brian. I was at the 20-point comeback game – incredibly exciting – but totally forgot about this one. But now it all comes back to me. The rivalries were so intense in those days that you were happy if they beat the Heat and/or the Pacers, with the actual championship seeming in a way much less important. (Though I say that knowing the Knicks never got there, so who knows?)

    Pretty sure it’s Rick Brunson, by the way, not Rich. Though since I only got 3 of the 5 Sactown starters, maybe I’m not the most reliable source….

  3. Jafa: Great piece Brian.Thoroughly enjoy these articles.To switch gears a little bit to the Knicks of today, Dolan seems to be at his usual meddling self again, listening to Isaiah, not patient enough and trusting enough to let Walsh do his job:http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/210739/Dolan_Calls_Kroenke_To_Discuss_Carmelo_TradeJust when you start feeling good about this team, the owner reminds you of why it has been so bad for years.  

    Jafa! When you read Franky Iso, you have to really read.

    He says:
    “Knicks owner James Dolan is taking a more active role in the team’s pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, calling Denver owner Stan Kroenke directly… Dolan’s involvement also suggests that former Knicks president Isiah Thomas is likely advising him.”

    Again, “Dolan’s involvement SUGGESTS former Knicks president…is likely advising him “???? That is dog s*** quality reporting. It’s not even reporting, it’s speculation, and bad speculation at that.

    Read the Times by comparison. All of their assertions are supported by other stories (usually with links), seemingly credible sources, or objective and logical conclusions.

    Is Dolan talking to Zeke? Maybe. But that article is crap.

  4. Pretty sure it’s Rick Brunson, by the way, not Rich.

    But I had Rick in the piece, right?

  5. Off topic, but…I’m interested in knowing whether any sort of statistical similarity analysis has been done on Fields. I have my own ideas of who he is, what he’s done so far and what that means as far as his future value but I would like to see what the numbers say.

  6. I can’t see anyway that Denver helps the fucking lakers win another title. Just doesn’t seem very sportsmanlike. And I don’t really see how they would view Bynum as being worth a trade straight up.

  7. This story seems to be getting quickly debunked as myth.


    NY will work trade on its terms but knows it can get Melo in free agency. Anyway, Jim Buss has made it clear within org: Bynum is staying.

    This is from an article Hahn just posted:

    A person with knowledge of the situation said Carmelo-Bynum talks actually took place last summer and nothing materialized beyond the initial discussion. The Daily News reported that Lakers executive Jim Buss, son of team owner Jerry Buss who feels strongly about Bynum’s potential, rejected such a proposal. The Los Angeles Times posted a story on it’s website that cited a Lakers source calling the original ESPN report “inaccurate.”


  8. May be BS, but they’ve been talking on the radio out here (in LA) about getting Melo for a while. I think the Nuggets would be smart to do that deal over what we’re giving them. Would probably work out okay for Lakers this year too. Beyond that, who knows… (Melo’s wife did say New York or LA, didn’t she?)

  9. Z: May be BS, but they’ve been talking on the radio out here (in LA) about getting Melo for a while. I think the Nuggets would be smart to do that deal over what we’re giving them. Would probably work out okay for Lakers this year too. Beyond that, who knows… (Melo’s wife did say New York or LA, didn’t she?)  

    I’ll admit it makes some sense for ‘Melo, L.A., and for Denver.

    But I remain highly doubtful because:
    – the L.A. Times called the story BS
    – the Lakers are REALLY not doing much worse than last year’s team that won the title. I don’t think they are as concerned as Disney’s subsidiaries would have you think.
    – the fact that Bynum is 23 and is currently playing – not quite at the same rate he was when he was 20 – but well. I think they’d miss him against Boston in the ’11 Finals if both teams get that far.

    P.S. ‘Melo and Lala OWN a house in L.A. according to Broussard:

  10. I don’t see how bynum straight for Melo is better than chandler/brewer/minns #1 pick. I think Bynum is extremely overrated. He’s a 7 foot injury proned player that’s averaging 11.3 and 7.9. How is that the better offer?

    And if you are Denver why would you facilitate a rival becoming potentially a continued dynasty team? I mean why? If we had a superstar that was gonna leave and Denver was where he wanted to go but Boston had what could be thought to be a SLIGHTLY better offer, sorry but I’m sure that guy goes to Denver 10/10. I mean we’ll trade reserve players with them but we are never giving them a star. I just don’t see it.

  11. According to SportsNation:

    65 percent of SportsNation viewers would rather see Carmelo Anthony play for the Knicks than the Lakers. SportsNation co-host Colin Cowherd agrees, “The Lakers already have two stars and the Knicks are getting so close being contenders. The Knicks need him because even if Melo doesn’t win you a title he still makes you incredibly interesting.”

    Co-host Michelle Beadle also agrees, “This is the first time I can ever remember talking about the Knicks positively. They are filling the seats for good reasons and are relevant. I’m going with the Knicks.”

    Here are the results of today’s polls: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/polls?pCat=114&sCat=368

  12. I’m so sick of teams bending over to help out the lakeshow. It’s ridiculous, if Denver did do that, man idk. Would be super depressing.

  13. Michelle Beadle is kinda hot, funny and looks like a cool girl but she is an extreme Yankee hater despite previously working for the YES network so I say who cares about her stupid opinion!!!! lol

  14. Amar’e had his tech rescinded from Sunday right?? Pretty sure I read that in one of the NY papers today.

  15. Interesting news I have heard today on espn radio. They were saying that Azu was practicing today and looked good. Dunno if this is because Azu is going in the deal or not but if he is ready to return that could be a nice boost especially if we end up losing Landry.

  16. I would not be surprised if Azu was ready to play soon. He was cleared a couple months ago and while he was pretty far from ready at that point he’s had alot of time to inch forward. A couple more weeks of playing with the team in practice and then he could start dressing for games and then eventually we could see him get on the court. As long as he’s playing by mid march I think he could be a nice boost in the playoffs. Plus if he comes back healthy he would be a great addition to any future plans. I think a fully healthy Azu could really help fill out the bench next year especially if we lose a player or two chasing Melo.

  17. Honestly I think Azu has been far further along than the Knicks have let on. There was a point (i believe Jan 20th?) in the season that if he did not return by that date then insurance would have to pay 80% of his contract. I am sure this was a big part of the Knicks not even considering rushing him back. But understand, should Azu return to form and not leave in the melo deal, this is a guy who may end up in the starting lineup instead of being the backup. And while most have campaigned for Randolph to get some PT, I have quietly hoped that Azu was going to make it back. He’s a quality 2. And I really think he could really boost this team. And while this is definitely not the way I want it to go down, should Denver find a way to press the Knicks into including Fields in the deal. It would be really good for Azu to be ready to return because he could really fill a void.

  18. Besides being totally agonizing, the next 2 weeks in the MeloDrama should be very interesting. On one side you have Ujiri and Kroenke, who are about as green as they come when it comes to this stuff. On the other (our side thankfully) you have Walsh, who Warkentien called “the godfather” and “a giant in the game”. Ian O’Connor wrote that he thinks that Fields will eventually get put into the deal. My question is, why would Walsh give up anything he truly values? I and others here predicted it months ago – at the end of the day, if Melo really wants to play for the NYK, then the Nuggets will trade him to us for a lowball offer or get nothing when Melo walks. No amount of posturing and leaking of supposed trade talks will change that. Walsh probably laughed out loud at this Bynum stuff knowing that it was an amateurish attempt to pressure him into including Gallo and/or Fields.

    I’m sure Ujiri doesn’t want to have history repeat itself with him being left empty-handed in Toronto after Bosh left and now in Denver with Melo. Saving your owner probably $20M in salary/luxury tax, clearing cap space, getting a good draft pick and a young piece in Chandler is really better than getting nothing at all.

  19. @29 I agree, and I love how other NBA executives are anonymously sniping that Denver management should be drawn and quartered if they allow the current deal with NY to happen. What exactly would they do? Melo holds all the cards, and by extension the Knicks also, and getting a high draft pick and Chandler and cap space would be a whole lot better than where the Cavs and Raptors ended up when they lost LeBron and Bosh.

  20. @30

    When I think of this whole thing I just get a mental picture of a no limit poker table, heads up match between an old school guy like Doyle Brunson (Donnie in this analogy) and a young punk (Ujiri). Hopefully the young punk isn’t Phil Ivey in this case.

  21. Well, as a semi pro player I think that analogy scares me because most internet punks would fare pretty well against doyle these days.

  22. Spree8nyk8: Well, as a semi pro player I think that analogy scares me because most internet punks would fare pretty well against doyle these days.  

    Don’t know about “most”, but hopefully in this game of basketball poker, there’s less chance involved than in real poker…

    To stretch this poker analogy way to far, Ujiri really is playing with one of his hole cards up — we pretty much know his hand.

  23. now that i can get on board with, that is much better.

    But yeah, it’s actually a ton more than you think when it comes to internet guys with skill. I mean most internet players play more hands in a single year than doyle played in his first probably about 20 years of playing. So the experience factor is gigantic, they learn at an exponential rate and that was simply a tool that Doyle didn’t have back then.

    I mean I’m not even a full pro, but when I grind I’ll play around 10k hands per day. And this is actually LOW for true grinders. One of my buddies is 22, has never worked, he plays around 15k hands a day. A DAY? Do you know how long it takes to play 15,000 hands live? Around 375 hours if you have a good moving game with a very good dealer. If you played 8 hours every single day it would take you 47 days to play what an online player plays in 1 single day. It’s kind of staggering.

  24. @35 – I used to play some online (stopped due to losing more than winning) and after playing so much, I just couldn’t sit through live games anymore – too boring.

    back to the NYK – now the dumb interwebs are talking about Felton and Billups being dragged into this charade also. Actually the previously discussed trade with Minnesota/Denver/NYK works if you send Billups to us and Felton and Azu to Denver.

    Not sure why Denver does that except as a favor to Billups (I’m sure he wants no part of a rebuild) and to save even more $. That’s a lot of $$ though. Billups is something like $26M over next 2 years – Azu is basically free for Denver and Felton is only making $15M over next 2. That + luxury tax savings is some serious moolah.

  25. I really like that trade. When I first thought about it, images of Billups picturing himself as “the man” and shooting last second shots instead of Melo or Amare had me recoiling.. but then I realized our current PG already does that!

  26. Haha. Maybe Donnie can paint it as a big concession on his part. Ujiri and Kroenke will wake up the next morning and say, “what happened?”

    Billups is on the downside but the money doesn’t bother me – it’s only 2 years more and we’d be capped out so it doesn’t really affect flexibility. Meanwhile he’s sporting a 64 TS% and hitting 44 percent of his 3s. As a big PG who can really shoot, I think he has plenty of years left, at least on the offensive end. D would be an issue…

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