This is the twenty-second 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.
When you look back upon the Knicks’ miraculous run to the NBA Finals in 1999, it is sometimes difficult to remember just how bleak things looked earlier in the season. On Monday, April 19th, the Knicks lost to the Philadelphia 76ers (on a last second miss by Patrick Ewing, one of seemingly 453 last second missed by Ewing that season), bringing their season record to 21-21, with 8 games left to play in the season. They were 1/2 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets had just beaten them badly a game earlier and the Knicks had to face them two more times. The Knicks were also just a game ahead of the Toronto Raptors. Things looked bleak. Knick general manager Ernie Grunfeld and coach Jeff Van Gundy were set against each other. Knick President Dave Checketts sided with Van Gundy…at least temporarily, and demoted Grunfeld on April 20th.
Ewing finally hit a big shot in a dramatic win against the Hornets on Friday, April 23rd. After making the first free throw to give the Knicks a two-point lead with 40 seconds to go, Camby missed the second free throw but managed to retrieve his own miss. Ewing then knocked down an ugly runner over over Derrick Coleman to give the Knicks a four-point lead with under 30 seconds to play. So the Knicks moved a half game ahead of the Hornets for the #8 seed. Still, the Knicks’ next three games were on the road – the Miami Heat, the Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks.
When their game began against the Heat on Sunday, April 25th, the Knicks were tied with both the Hornets and the Toronto Raptors, with each team having the same 22-21 record. So to say that this game against their hated rivals, the Heat, would make or break their season, would not be saying too much.
And they would be playing without Patrick Ewing.
What happened next very possibly gave the Knicks the confidence they needed to face the Heat in the 1999 Playoffs. It was a game where, in the locker room after it ended, the Heat’s Tim Hardaway had to say, ‘This is about as bad as it gets.”
Read on to find out why it was “as bad as it gets”!