Famous Knicks-slayer and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller will serve as the analyst for the game, joining play-by-play man Kevin Harlan and reporter Rachel Nichols some 18 years, to the day, of Miller’s unforgettable Game 1 Eastern Conference semifinal showing against the Knicks.
You might remember that one, the game that saw Miller score eight points in 8.9 seconds to beat the Knicks. I bet Spike Lee, a regular at Knicks games then and now, remembers.
The Knicks are already down a game in this series with the Pacers. They looked listless in Sunday’s Game 1 loss, when the Pacers outworked them, per Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony. This is the sixth playoff series between the two franchises, but the first for the Pacers without Miller in uniform.
They’ve split the previous matches evenly. The Knicks beat the Pacers in four games in the first round in 1993, in seven games in the conference finals in 1994 (Miller’s 25 points in the fourth quarter of the Pacers’ Game 5 win and taunting of Lee set the rivalry on fire) and in six games in the conference finals in 1999. The Pacers beat the Knicks in seven games in the semifinals in 1995, in five games in the semifinals in 1998 and in six games in the conference finals in 2000.
A trip to The Finals is not on the line this time. But another chapter in this storied rivalry will be written either way. Having Miller around tonight to analyze and witness the affair is just the sort of drama you might expect from this series and, especially, TNT.
They’ve got intimate knowledge of the place, both of having been in the building when it’s an emotional power keg, when the hometown fans are cranked up and caught up in the atmosphere of a big game.
They’ll be on the other side this time, though, wearing the wrong colored jerseys for Game 3 Thursday night (7 ET, TNT). But that doesn’t change the fact that these games serve as a homecoming of sorts for these Heat stars whose careers took off in “Brew City.”
Wade came to town as an unheralded Marquette recruit and left a lottery pick, beloved by the locals as the star who helped restore a once proud program to national prominence. His college jersey hangs in the rafters of the arena, one of the retired numbers of the greats to have called the city home at some point.
Allen’s future Hall of Fame career started in Milwaukee, he played the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Bucks, helped them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 and earned three trips to the All-Star game as a Buck before being traded to Seattle in February of 2003.
“I went to Milwaukee with not a lot of expectations and I came out of Milwaukee the fifth pick of the Draft,” Wade said. “Milwaukee has been special to me. It has helped me get to this point. Going back there in the playoffs is a cool thing. It’s very humbling (having his jersey retired). Every time I look up there, I think about how far I have come. It’s special to be able to play in an arena where your jersey hangs.” (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When presented with the promise and global recognition of what might be and the sobering reality of what is, the New York Knicks made a choice. In fact, they made the right choice where last season’s point guard sensation, Jeremy Lin, was concerned by not keeping him in the fold.
Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton make it much easier to see that now, what with the quality work they have put in this season for the 18-5 Knicks, who welcome the star of the off-Broadway smash, Linsanity, back to Madison Square Garden tonight (7 ET, NBA TV) for the first time since Lin signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent.
The Knicks chose veteran leadership and production over the charade that was the overnight sensation that Lin became during his breakout stretch of play. Don’t misunderstand us, though: Lin is a solid player, but not the folk hero he was played up to be during Linsanity. And as our man John Schuhmann points out, Houston’s offensive and defensive rating with Lin on the court is worse than it is without him on the court.
Kidd is a winner and arguably the most underrated athlete (in any sport) of his generation. Felton played some of the best basketball of his career in his first stint with the Knicks in their pre-Lin era. He’s picked up right where he left off this season by combining with Kidd to form one of the most potent backcourt duos in the league.
Lin, as expected, is going through some of the growing pains you might expect for a player whose starting experience as a point guard includes all of 48 games, a little more than half of an NBA season. There have even been rumblings about him being a backup in Houston in order to help ease his transition. Can you imagine the outrage if he was still in New York and someone was contemplating a move like that?
In fairness, Lin’s had his moments this season. He looked like the Lin of … well, Linsanity, when he exploded for 38 points and seven assists in a Dec. 10 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But he did that while the Rockets’ best player, James Harden, was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Lin has a habit of playing his best when his team’s best player is wearing street clothes. Most of his best work with the Knicks came when Carmelo Anthony (as well as Amar’e Stoudemire) were not in the lineup.
On the flip side, Kidd and Felton play the same with or without the big dogs in the lineup. It’s the difference between having proven talent at the controls and a developmental prospect who might not be best suited as a full-time starter running your show.
That doesn’t mean that Lin deserves anything other than a rousing round of applause from the Knicks faithful tonight. He did provide weeks of cosmic pleasure for those fans and fans of an underdog story everywhere. His rise with the Knicks was easily the best story of the season and one of the best in recent pro sports history in this country.
As fleeting as it was, Linsanity was every bit as fun for the rest of us as it was surreal for Lin, who said he’s expecting things to be “wild” tonight.
And I agree with his former Knicks teammates, who believe Lin’s contributions to the resurgence of the franchise deserve to be appreciated on their own merit.
“He’s one of those guys people will remember for his time here,” Steve Novaktold the New York Daily News. “It wasn’t a very long, long time, but it was special. There’ll be a movie about it one day.”
(There’s a certain famous filmmaker/Knicks superfan who could do the Linsanity story proper justice … paging Spike Lee!)
At this stage of his career, would you be more comfortable with Lin running your team or doing so with a promising young rookie like Portland’s Damian Lillard?
If you have to think about that for more than three seconds, it should be clear by now that the Knicks did the right thing!
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This day, this moment, belongs to Reggie Miller.
This is his night in the Hall of Fame spotlight. But in addition to family, friends and former teammates, coaches and fans who will all share in his special moment.
That group includes his colleagues at TNT, who shared some of their own thoughts about Miller …
“Reggie will go down as one of the greatest shooters of all time. But you can’t mention Reggie’s name and not think of the legendary comeback against the Knicks.”
“Reggie is a friend of mine and I’m very happy for him. It’s an awesome accomplishment and it’s going to be a wonderful night for him and his sister.”
“I loved watching Reggie play because for 48 minutes he gave you everything he had, and he possessed all those qualities that encompass being a superstar in this league: worth ethic, court sense, will to win, loyalty, charisma, killer instinct, ability to perform in the clutch … the list goes on and on. Like all the greats, Reggie wanted the ball in his hands with the game hanging in the balance and time and again he would deliver. His night in Springfield is richly deserved, and we’re all richer for having watched such a talent for all those years in the Pacers uniform.”
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Who will be the best NBA player in five years among rookies?
Steve Aschburner:Ricky Rubio. Kyrie Irving is the safe, logical pick and Derrick Williams seems like the type of player who may be appreciated most by hardcore basketball fans. But I think Rubio has the court vision, the skills, the pass-first sensibility and the charisma to become a star. He’ll certainly get the proper nurturing and training wheels from a Minnesota franchise that can hardly bear to have him fail. Ole, indeed.
Fran Blinebury: Kyrie Irving. It’s a point guard’s world in the NBA today and Irving will have all the opportunity to excel.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Next time you’ll listen when Amar’e Stoudemire tells you the Knicks are not afraid of the Miami Heat.
The Knicks showed no fear at Madison Square Garden in battling from behind and then out playing the Heat down the stretch on TNT last night. It was the sort of performance that exposes all the reasons why these Knicks, with a key addition (Carmelo Anthony) here or there, could be trouble for the rest of the Eastern Conference come playoff time and beyond.
When people try to simplify this win for the Knicks by pointing out that Mario Chalmers missed a wide open shot that could have tied the game in the final seconds and that the Knicks just took care of business late, they are doing a disservice to the home team.
The Knicks snatched this game, using that 17-8 fourth-quarter surge to turn back Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at crunch time. Those four straight 3-pointers during the run, two each from Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields, proved to be the difference as the Knicks doubled the Heat’s fourth quarter production.
The Wednesday night slate of games around the league confirmed it. On a good night, there is simply an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
Instant classics on hallowed ground (Celtics-Knicks at the Garden) have a way of elevating the entire night.
We just hope you didn’t fall asleep on what was truly one of the most entertaining Hump Night slates of the season (don’t worry, we’ll have full recaps on all 11 games later today in Did You See What We Saw?):
It’s rare that a game hyped as much as the Celtics-Knicks game actually lives up to that hype. But we got everything any hoops fan could ask for, including two game-winning shots (Paul Pierce‘s was his usual assassin’s work while Amar’e Stoudemire’s was a split-second late, but would have made a great game even better).
Anyone wondering about this Knicks team and whether or not they are legit should have their answer. They bowed up on the big stage, helping create an atmosphere described by many as the most electric they’ve seen at Madison Square Garden in a decade.
But when it comes to big names sitting at courtside, can anybody really top the Spurs?
Of course, we always thought that David Robinson was the ultimate role model in San Antonio. But this takes things to a different level.
It didn’t take any miracle shots for the Spurs to ring up their 18th consecutive win over the Clippers, only Gregg Popovich’s 1st commandment: Thou Shalt Play Defense. Though some fans sitting nearby swore they say saw a few cups of water turned into cold draft beer.
Mostly, the Spurs’ newest/oldest celebrity fan smiled, waved and seemed to enjoy the action, even pulling out a cell phone at one point and Tweeting to, you had to figure, at least 12 followers.