HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — What do you get when you take the most extensive library of NBA footage, a room full of creative and inquisitive hoops heads and the simple directive of helping fill the basketball void so many of us have been feeling the past two months?
You get “Playoff Gems on NBA TV,” 10 crucial postseason matchups that will make their NBA TV premiers this week as Hardwood Classics. Our good friends at NBA TV will air three games a day starting Tuesday and running through Thursday with the 10th and final game airing Friday, Sept. 2. As a bonus they’ll re-air all of the games throughout Labor Day weekend, just in case you miss one the first time.
Here’s a quick rundown of the games, including the date and times (ET) they will air on NBA TV, with a few of our notes to help refresh your memory:
Tuesday, Aug. 30
Bullets vs. Warriors, 1975 Finals: Game 3 — 8 p.m. ET
Any game featuring Rick Barry at his best is worth your time. One of the game’s all-time great scorers, Barry was at his best in this game. He lit up the Bullets for 38 points and Jamaal Wilkes put the defensive clamps, as best any man could, on Elvin Hayes to help the Warriors to what would be an insurmountable 3-0 series lead. The underdog Warriors finished the Bullets off in Game 4 to complete their magical run. There hasn’t been a Finals game played in the Bay Area since this one.
Suns vs. SuperSonics, 1979 Western Conference finals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET
The Sonics’ first and only NBA title doesn’t happen without them grinding through this rugged conference final against the rival Suns. Game 7 was played before 37,000-plus fans at The Kingdome. The final and thrilling seconds of this one still gets the juices flowing for Sonics fans who were worried they might not get a chance for a Finals rematch against the Bullets after losing in 1978. Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens and his point guard, Dennis Johnson, did a masterful job of managing the game down the stretch.
Knicks vs. Nets, 1983 Eastern Conference first round: Game 1 — Midnight ET
For those of us with an appreciation for the artist known as Bernard King, this game will be a treat. King turned the Hudson River Rivalry into a rout with a 40-point explosion as the Hubie Brown-coached Knicks dumped the Nets in two games to advance to a conference semifinal date with the Philadelphia 76ers. HT fave Truck Robinson was on this Knicks team as well, as were Rory Sparrow and a young Bill Cartwright (seriously).
Wednesday, Aug. 31
Spurs vs. Nuggets, 1985 Western Conference first round: Game 2 — 8 p.m. ET
With the “Iceman,” George Gervin showing off all of his silky smooth moves, the Spurs and Nuggets played a classic. Gervin outgunned high-scoring Nuggets guard Alex English in a series that marked the end of the “Ice Age” in San Antonio — Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls after the season.
Celtics vs. Pistons, 1985 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 10 p.m. ET
The heated Celtics-Pistons rivalry that colored much of the mid to late 1980s took its first major postseason turn in this series. Isiah Thomas had Joe Dumars (via the draft) and Rick Mahorn (courtesy of a trade with Washington) on his side for the first time in the 1985 postseason. But it was “The Microwave” Vinnie Johnson that stole the show in Game 4. The Pistons’ surprising showing in this series — which they lost 4-2 — was a statement that they would be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
Sixers vs. Bucks, 1986 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 1 — Midnight ET
With All-World big man Moses Malone sidelined with an injury a young Charles Barkley — that’s right TNT’s very own! — went to work against the Bucks and posted a monster 31-point, 20-rebound night as the Sixers rallied for the comeback win. This was just Barkley’s second season in the league but it served as his breakout year, as he earned second-team All-NBA honors. Malone was traded to the Bullets before the start of the next season and Barkley became the face of the franchise.
Thursday, Sept. 1
Bulls vs. Sixers, 1990 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 8 p.m. ET
You didn’t really think this project would be completed without at least one dose of MJ, did you? Michael Jordan was at his versatile best in this game, and did it without Scottie Pippen (who missed the game to attend his father’s funeral). MJ’s 45 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals only tell part of the story. You need to watch the way he dictated the action from end to end to truly appreciate his performance.
Bulls vs. Pistons, 1991 Eastern Conference finals: Game 3 — 10 p.m. ET
In what turned out to be not only the defining game of this series but the turning point in this rivalry, the Bulls were on the verge of erasing three straight years of postseason frustration at the hands of their fierce rivals. MJ went off, scoring 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter in what was one of the defining moments of his early career, this was just his seventh season in the league. He added seven rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and two steals in the breakthrough game that set the stage for the Bulls’ series sweep of the Pistons and their first Finals appearance.
Celtics vs. Pacers, 1992 Eastern Conference first round: Game 3 — Midnight ET
In a battle of Reggies (Indy’s Reggie Miller vs. Boston’s Reggie Lewis), Lewis shined brightest with a 32-point effort to lead the Celtics to victory and a series sweep of a Pacers team that gave them fits a year earlier in a five-game, first-round playoff series. Even with aging and wounded stars Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish still grinding, there was no doubt that Lewis was asserting himself as the heir apparent in Boston. He, and not Bird or McHale, led the Celtics in scoring that season. In 10 playoff games that year, Lewis averaged 28 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor.
Friday, Sept. 2
Suns vs. Rockets, 1994 Western Conference semifinals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET
Hakeem Olajuwon was at the height of his powers in this one, destroying the Suns with 37 points and 17 rebounds as the Rockets eventually moved onto the NBA Finals and the first of their back-to-back titles. If you need a refresher course to remind you just how dominant Olajuwon was that season, here is your cheat sheet. If first-person testimonials are needed, just check with Clyde Drexler, Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. All of those superstars saw their title dreams end that season because of Dream and the Rockets.
Do yourself a favor and tune in this week. You’ll be glad you did!