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Abe Beame cuts through defenders like Jason Voorhees with a machete.
On Tuesday, May 25th, 1993, the Knicks and Bulls resumed the Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks clinging to a home court advantage. This was rarefied air for the ostensibly favored, higher seeded Knicks, largely the Bulls whipping boys through the middle life of both Ewing and Jordan’s tenures with the franchises they defined throughout this decade. But here there was a real opportunity to take control of a series, assert dominance, make a statement, and change a narrative forever. But before opening tip, let’s zoom out.
We’ve discussed the personalities and histories that drove both teams but what of the styles? If styles make fights the contrasts were stark and dying to be drafted as metaphors between these two behemoths in 1993. The easy reduction of the series, and most Bulls series throughout the 90s could be simply, one team had Michael Jordan and one team didn’t. But this is a disservice to the Bulls, and the Knicks.
The deep, well coached Knicks took a deficiency in talent but an innate understanding of rules and strategy and exploited their then-current form. There’s a scenario where Riley stays in New York, plants his flag and turns the Knicks into an endlessly dynamic, perennial powerhouse in the Spurs model. In Miami he showed the same flexibility Pop exhibited when he radically shifted the Spurs from a muddy, grind-out, post dominant team to a beautiful, fluid, pass heavy corner three machine. Who knows what Riley could’ve done had he remained an executive in New York.
The Bulls in many ways not only represented the future of the league, but the past. They anticipated the re-extended three point line, the zone defense, the open court offense of constant movement that preceded them and they ultimately foreshadowed. It wasn’t quite as dogmatic as Moreyball in its current form, Jackson wasn’t a fascist rule maker (And when situation called for it, or he fucking felt like it, Jordan would throw out the rule book). His Triangle demanded his players think the game, and when Jordan finally got on board, they did too.
They played a twitchy, cerebral form of basketball on both sides of the ball that contrasted greatly with the bar fights the Knicks would try to lure opponents into. I think the easy conclusion is the Bulls won out because they had the right dream. History is written by the winners and by all accounts a more pleasant, grabby, accessible form of the game won out.
But I’m not always so sure. Last week I got to watch the Pelicans at home against the Phoenix Suns. This is the second time I’m going to reference him in two pieces but Jrue Holiday was absolutely magnetizing to watch in person. When he bares down and locks in on his ball handler at half court there’s an electricity in the air. It’s the defensive equivalent of Steph Curry heating up from 35+ and he’s the kind of throwback guard that would’ve fit right in beside guys like Doc, Starks and Derek Harper.
There was a moment towards the end of the first half when he bored down on Devin Booker and was determined not to let Booker advance to the perimeter with the ball. Before the crowd could even approach a proper lather a ref blew a whistle. There was perhaps a hip graze or something well above the arc and Jrue was penalized.
When the crowd got up and started cheering and I felt that old twinge, the Coliseum heavyweight vibe you’d get from Starks locking down his man on the perimeter no matter the discrepancy in size or talent, or Oak deciding his man on the block was not going up with a shot even if it meant breaking his fucking arm. My favorite championship from the early 2000s is the miracle Pistons chip that broke “The Jordan Rules” in winning without a superstar.
I don’t think I’m alone in that and I think many saw and loved echoes of that team in the ragtag Mavericks bunch from 2011 (No offense, older Dirk). I loved the D’Antoni Suns and the D’Antoni Rockets and I love the Warriors in their former and current iteration. But of course you can’t add something without losing something so we lost that element of the game. Sometimes I wonder if the game is really better without the bloodsport teams like the halcyon Knicks embodied. Anyways, Game 2.
(I could only find this game in 10ish minute increments which actually probably services this dispatch’s snackability)
0:15: John Andariese just said he doesn’t expect Jordan to be as patient as he was with his teammates the other night. If you know anything about Jordan the idea he ever could or would be patient with his teammates is patently hilarious and the game will bear this out.
0:31: The overhead camera shot before tip off is brought to you by Upper Deck, I can only assume the now defunct trading card company (I refuse to research this because like Schrodinger’s Cat, I will leave the box close so I can hold out faint hope it’s still alive). Dope sponsorship, Upper Deck.
1:00: Completely insane loose ball foul on Charles Smith. I would expect these to increase exponentially in frequency as the series goes on and gets increasingly desperate for the Golden Bulls.
1:30: Budweiser advertising heavy on the face of the scorer’s table. Can alcohol producer’s still advertise like that in game? Can we get Miller High Life on Bucks Jerseys or something?
2:45: Patrick cleaning the glass. This guy was such a fucking hero in New York. We haven’t seen universal love like this since Derek retired. I wonder if we ever will again.
3:45: Barkley won the MVP earlier this day by a sizeable margin with 835 votes. Michael was third with 565 and Ewing was a distant fourth with 359. Rookie Shaq incredibly got 30 votes. Mark Price got 10. For fun, here is a list of the players that received one MVP vote a piece in 1993: Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, Shawn Kemp, John Stockton, and ladies and gentlemen, Brad Daugherty. So I just think this bears pointing out, not only did ten people think Mark Price deserved an MVP nod, but one guy was like “Fuck all this Mark Price hype, Brad is clearly the straw that stirs the drink on this 2nd in the Central Division, 54-28, 1993 Cavs squad. Incredible.
4:32: Wow. Doc just fucking splashed a three right in Jordan’s shit.
4:48: Wild questionable goal tend as Jordan went at Pat with a weak AF floater. Jordan is forcing the offense and they are just rolling out the red carpet, discouraging any type of resistance by the Knicks.
5:25: Absolute no contact foul on Starks, Jordan posted spun and faded, bricked the attempy and Starks got called.
6:34: The Knicks bigs were so versatile. Oak just provided release on a press, pushes the ball up court, and finishes the play with a gorgeous lob pass to Charles Smith in the paint. Now it’s a given that most Forwards can handle the ball and make plays with passing and shoot from outside but it was a serious advantage for the Knicks at the time when you factor in Mase.
6:47: Putback dunk by Pippen off another Jordan brick. Nasty.
8:00: Starks blows by Jordan and delivers a beautiful drop off to Oak. I swear to God this dude was not a great on ball defender.
8:18: MSG graphics department for the win, ladies and gentlemen.
0:06: Nobody Beats the Wiz sponsored the back of the chairs on the bench. Shout to all my tri-staters who remember The Wiz. $10 CDs when all these jerks like Tower and The Wall were trying to get $12-$15. Also dope theme song, here’s a special old ass Christmas edition clip I found. Happy Holidays.
0:40: In a pre-taped interview Doc just admitted to laying out and trying to juice the refs for a tech. Wonder where those awful ref harassing Clippers teams got it from? Also, his teeth are seriously fucked up.
1:12: Patrick just wet a J from like maybe two steps inside the arc. It’s incredible that no one thought to say, “Hey Patrick, why don’t you just start shooting 3s?” The guy could’ve been the first, prototypical stretch 5 and it would’ve altered his entire legacy.
2:26: Ewing cookin early. Just fucking dancing on the baseline. Last game he started strong then faded. Monitoring the story as it develops.
2:50: Jordan went right at Ewing, laid it in. Probably actually finally deserved a whistle but didn’t get it and started bitching. I think there’s a chance he’s shot on every possession this quarter and every other Bulls bucket is off a putback or turnover. Can’t wait to take a look at his FG % and Free throw attempts at the end of the game.
3:35: Actually on replay that was a charge on Jordan. Also I don’t think Jordan ever needed to use condoms in the 90s because he had John Andariese all over his dick.
4:42: LOL Spike just reached out at Jordan as he came up court and Jordan swatted at him.
5:50: Celebrity Row crowd shots: Seinfeld looking like serial killer Jerry, Maury Povich and Connie Chung (side note: I used to work for Maury’s daughter who now runs a wildly successful lobster roll company in NYC, if you’re wondering what happened to Connie Chung the last 30 years she’s apparently agoraphobic and won’t leave the house), Rob Reiner, Reggie Jackson who gets a mix of cheers and boos, I think I saw David Letterman in the second or third row, Boomer Esiason who just gets straight booed, Red Holzman and Dave Debusher.
7:20: Incredible. I’ve rarely seen Pippen overmatched but he just bounced off Mase like a bug on a windshield. This is the Knicks frontcourt at the moment: Ewing, Oak and Mason. What’s insane is they sacrifice nothing in shooting or ball handling. In this less mobile and flexible league it’s easy to see why they were so difficult to contend with. SO much skilled size. Mase was third in the league in playoff FG % with just under, wait for it, fucking 60%!
9:00: Scott Williams is super ugly.
9:30: THE GOD HERB WILLIAMS IS IN THE BUILDING. Herb was 35 years old in 1993 which is impressive because he doesn’t look a day over 200 years old.
0:51: When Doc shoots FTs his expression is like a person who is taking the SATs without having studied.
1:08: Marv just announced that after today, a Tuesday, Game 3 is going to be played the following Saturday with Game 4 on Monday. This is a Conference Final. I feel like that is a wild break in action, no?
2:21: Pippen is struggling early. Love the guy but at least in this series so far he’s at best a secondary offensive piece. The skillset is there for him to become the absolute monster I remember but in game, in this series, he’s not there yet.
4:47: In a courtside interview Jerry just told Al Trautwig he didn’t have tickets for tonight’s game but slipped an usher $10 and that’s how he ended up courtside. Good bit.
7:12: OG Greg Anthony just roasted John Paxson. It’s incredible there was ever a league a guy that looks like Paxson could play in. Paxson looks like the kind of guy who yells at bikers for riding on the Southern pedestrian side of the Manhattan bridge. Kind of incredible that he would go on to hit a championship winning shot.
8:01: They just called a travel on Rolando Blackman for something Harden would consider a first step.
0:29: We open with a great highlight reel of former Knick Trent Tucker hitting ludicrous 3s against the Bulls, including a game winner he once hit with A TENTH OF A SECOND REMAINING. Miss the old NBA.
0:56: Will Perdue has an incredibly punchable face, emasculated Step Dad vibes.
2:55: Incredible sequence for Starks, forces Jordan into a turnaround airball, then pushing on the other side drops off in the post to Charles Smith for a beautiful dime.
5:25: Huh. Jordan was jawing at Greg Anthony on a breakaway dunk so MSG used it as a segue to highlight that Jordan apparently had beef with Greg Anthony because of a hard foul Anthony put on Jordan in his rookie year? I bet that petty bitch still mutters under his breath when they see each other in public.
9:14: Jordan just went up with a weak ass post move and Pat said “GET THAT BULLSHIT THE FUCK FROM ROUND ME BRUH!” Or something like that.
9:42: Jordan went back up again with some weak shit with Starks all over him and Starks responded by saying “YA NAH CHAT BAD PON RUDE BWOY”. Again the volume on these are a bit shoddy it’s hard to make out exactly what the players are saying but I’m pretty sure he assumed patois and went off. Like most teams, the Bulls are at their worst when their offense grinds to a halt with bullshit Jodan hero Iso.
0:42: And of course Jordan is trying to take it again and gets a cheap whistle because Blackman apparently breathed on him or something.
1:05: Pippen just threw one into the third row. If it seems like I’m being biased and focusing solely on the Knicks it’s because I am biased but also Chicago is play like utter mouse shit.
1:15: I think either Albert Brooks or Jason Alexander or a guy who sells insurance in Syosset is sitting just behind Phil Jackson wearing an insanely early 90s teal hat.
3:45: They just called Oak for not even touching Jordan and he was so mad Ewing literally had to shove him to prevent him from bum rushing a Ref. What a weapon for the Knicks on defense completely neutralized thus far in the series through officiating.
5:26: The way the Bulls use the press is pretty interesting. They’ll randomly throw it on here and there, it’s the basketball equivalent of a blitz. Outside of like a Pitino college team I can’t think of another professional team that would randomly use the press in that fashion. I feel like with modern handle and positionless basketball it would be pointless today but I’d love to see a team try.
6:04: Starks blew past Jordan yet again for a lay in. What a series so far for this guy.
6:51: Wow. I strongly urge you to actually go into the link about and click to this spot. The Bulls threw on a press and the Knicks were in danger of an 8 second and Mase absolutely put it on both Pippen and Jordan with insane ball handling. It was like an And 1 Mixtape clip. Even in the modern game there’s no precedent for a guy with his size and body to have handle like that. MAYBE Zion. The Garden is pumped. I defy anyone to find an instance of a crowd going this crazy for a team advancing the ball past half court. Mase was a unicorn.
7:14: Mase has an interlocking Knicks logo resembling the Yankees logo cut into his hair. We need someone to bring back the “cutting crazy shit into my head on game day” thing. Surprised Stern never tried to crack down on that.
8:28: Ewing just got a lay in. 12 points in the half. Very quiet mediocre game thus far for Patrick.
9:31: The Knicks took a really interesting strategy towards Jordan which is leaving Starks on him basically alone. I don’t get it. I’d make the other four guys beat me.
0:15: John Andariese Just said Ewing has way more help than Jordan does. I feel like this is patently false. I guess you could argue 3-5 the Knicks had more flex and skill in support but the Bulls have more shooting, and Pippen is such a weapon, with all due respect to Doc and Starks, Oak and Mase, whoever, he would’ve been the second or even potentially best player on the Knicks. So Knicks were possibly a slightly deeper team but wouldn’t you rather have the generous 2 or at worst 1.5 best players on the floor at any given moment?
1:15: Completely bizarre tech on Mase. Crossed the fuck out of Trent Tucker and almost jammed on Cartwright which would’ve been like the play of the century. Then I guess he kind of held onto the rim a tenth of a second too long? This is the worst of “Pull your pants up” officiating and it’s all against the Knicks.
3:12: Halftime. Jordan’s line is 25 on 7/16. Meh. Unlike Game 1 Starks is getting washed. 2 point, 1-5 from the field. Game is pretty even so far. Knicks doing a much better job taking care of the ball. We have the edge on rebounding yet again but it’s not quite as severe. FG % has regressed to the mean for both teams, hovering around 50%.
5:16: BJ just got his first bucket of the game. He’s been a complete and total non-factor in the series thus far. I imagine as the Bulls take control in the next part of the series that will change. They need another guy to show up for them offensively.
6:23: This blitzkrieg swarm trapping the Bulls employ on defense would be impossible with a floor that was more coherently and rationally spaced. I’m surprised since most teams didn’t play much beyond the arc during this era that more defenses didn’t use that sort of scheme. So easy to recover and mark your men when you’re defending on a compact court like that.
7:09: Ugly game. Knicks definitely have the Bulls playing at their pace. Phil said first team to 100 wins and that appears accurate.
7:50: Budweiser sponsored something called The Dunk of The Game, which they weirdly choose right after halftime? Cool little promotion though some NBA sponsor should bring it back.
8:02: Doc pulled up for a three in transition and it’s hilarious how stunned and impressed/scandalized Marv and John are by the decision. John Andariese died in March of last year and I can only assume it was of a massive heart attack watching a Warriors game.
9:09: Watching this series you kind of understand why Jordan had to develop the game that would carry him through the second threepeat. Teams like the Knicks with a fierce on ball defender like Starks and help coming from bigs like Oak, Pat and Mase could just choke the paint on him and he had to play from 12-18 out, his jumper wasn’t there yet, at least not in these two games. Interested to see how the man and team adjust strategy in games 3-6.
9:58: Friendly reminder that Charles Smith is a motherfucking G.
0:29: Doc with a beautiful steal and get fouled in transition going to the rack. The perfect tough as nails, unselfish point to run this offense. I forgot what a crucial cog Doc was to this team. I think at this point his coaching career has overshadowed how good he was on the court. He has 17 points in the third heading to the line.
1:38: Starks just did an incredible job denying an entry pass to Jordan and the possession predictably fell apart for the Bulls. Knicks pulling away.
2:01: First illegal defense on the Bulls. Man that is an annoying call why the fuck did they ever start doing that in the first place?
2:34: Starks with a beautiful catch and shoot reminding us he’s still alive. This game is a reminder that as good as he was in Game 1, Starks could be a frustrating watch night in and night out because of consistency. The guy was a crap shoot.
4:52: God I loved Oak. They’re showing a replay of him getting Charles Smith in line. He’s like forearm shivering him to emphasize his points but you can tell its tough love encouragement. What a leader. He was the heart and soul of the team and I can’t even fathom a squad that wouldn’t play balls out blood, sweat and tears team defense with him around holding everyone accountable.
5:40: Horace Grant sighting. He has really been a non factor.
6:57: If you want to understand what this era of Knicks basketball was about and why it was so fun and make such an impact on its tortured fans go back and watch the last sequence. It’s like a minute long because there’s 3-4 offense rebounds and a loose ball out of bounds recovery. It took something like three minutes for me to type this because it’s hard to type when you’re sobbing with a combination of joy and sorrow. Bulls call timeout and I think that was the sequence that broke them. We wanted this one more than they did.
8:54: Marv just made this comment and it’s absolutely true, you will have to look really hard to find another game where it was this difficult for Jordan to even find good shots. I’m sure he’ll end up with 30+ because he was a shnora early in the game but it will be a wildly inefficient line. The Knicks solved him this night.
0:18: Malcolm D. Lee should make a black Elf with Bill Cartwright in the Will Ferrell role. No prosthetics necessary.
1:31: There was just a solid minute of messy, back and forth transition and it’s a reminder what great job the Knicks have done controlling tempo. My guess is the next four games are going to be wildly different in terms of pace and chaos level which play right into the Bulls hands.
3:56: To his credit Jordan just hit a beautiful, hang in the air, switch hands, finish with the left and draw the foul type of thing I haven’t seen, maybe all series. Has not been able to eat in the paint in the half court whatsoever.
7:11: End of the third. Knicks up 14. Bulls wildly frustrated. Pahty done.
9:19: Marv is teasing late in the series editions of MSG Sports Desk. He just said “IF there is a Game 5”. Such wild, unbridled, tragic optimism. I just teared up a little.
0:25: When the Bulls ultimately lose this game it will have been six straight at the Garden dating back to 92. Absolutely incredible they’re about to win four straight games including a clincher in Chelsea.
1:34: Scott Williams just caught a hard foul from Charles Smith and stared him down and even here at my laptop removed by 25 years I laughed. Hey, Scott Williams, you ain’t live it you witnessed it from your folks’ pad, you scribbled it in your notepad, created your life.
2:51: I have zero doubts that if they existed at this time Charles Smith would be a Zach Lowe Luke Walton All Star. Just a reminder that I’m still in the market for that home white size 44 Champion replica Charles Smith jersey.
3:29: Really fucking with the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern repartee between John and
Marv. It’s like a Beckett two hander scored by the organ in MSG and the percussion of a basketball bouncing off a court.
4:12: I believe I just got a very brief, from behind Jeff Van Gundy sighting. He had to be one of those kids that were balding as a Junior in High School. Also I kind of want to retroactively call CPS on my parents because it was a complete abdication of their duties to not send me to this Gatorade Knicks Summer Camp instead of the lame ass New Jersey Y Jew camp I had to go to instead:
6:25: There’s 9:35 left in the fourth and Jordan has been on the bench since the start of the quarter. He is high key throwing shade at the team and this is a legit tantrum and I would love to see what basketball Twitter would do to Lebron for pulling this shit in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he’s already down 1-0.
9:09: Jordan finally came back in. Eight left to play.
9:28: Another incredible and emblematic hustle sequence for the Knicks. Jordan looks like he’s dying to be out on a golf course somewhere losing money right now.
0:17: Yo someone get your man Bill Oakes. This dude was so loose with the whistle tonight. I think he just called his fifth or sixth tech and he tossed Pippen. This dude was Joey Crawford before Joey Crawford was Joey Crawford. Ironically, Joey Crawford was officiating this game alongside Oakes which is like Darth Vader fighting alongside the Sith Lord. Pippen is sick right now.
3:51: Bruh. They just showed an old clip of the last time Pippen got tossed from a playoff game against the Knicks in 89. He started scrapping with Kenny Walker. I think my 2 year old daughter could whoop Kenny Walker’s ass that dude can’t fight for shit. Pure comedy.
8:35: Mase fouled out. Fuck. Somehow, despite knowing we’re going to win I’m nervous.
9:40: Scott Williams just fouled out. A shit load of calls and game stoppages. There’s 4:35 left in the game and another 20 minutes of tape to watch. Crazy.
1:52: Your man Bill Oakes is back at it. Greg Anthony just made a completely justifiable play on the ball. A foul I would characterize as borderline hard, and he just got a flagrant 2 and tossed immediately. Watch the footage. Fucking stupid.
4:48: Somehow it’s a five point game?
5:12: Uh, Jordan pull up. Make that a three point game. Bulls on a 12-3 run. That Pippen ejection was crucial.
6:14: Patrick and 1. Great playmaking by Starks. What a moment.
7:10: Substitute Shop teacher with my third grade mushroom cut John Paxson coming out of the woodwork. The Yankees just traded for an ace named Paxton so I think suddenly I kind of like him more.
7:43: Ewing just swatted Perdue. Whatever you want to say about Ewing’s touch and go offense so far in this series, the guy was a fucking animal on D every play night in, night out.
0:20: Marv just called Bill Cartwright a spazz.
0:54: 3 point game with 50 second to play. If Cartwright didn’t brick both free throws it would’ve been one. WTF. Starks has the ball above the arc, dribbling it out, surely nothing iconic to see here.
0:56: Starks makes a move on Armstrong and blows by him, approaching the rim, hopefully he lays it up or passes off or something.
0:57: Oh wow Starks is in the air, he just cocked back with Horace Grant and Jordan right there with him at the basket, I wonder what he has in mind?
0:58: Oh shit.
0:59: So I was just kind of kidding. I think “The Dunk” is one of the most overblown, overrated iconic moments in the history of basketball. First of all, Starks kind of dunks in the vicinity of Jordan, not exactly on him. The Pippen on Ewing was way more vicious and filthy. But I will say this, “The Dunk” was more than an ill play. I completely forgot the situation. The Knicks easily could’ve blown this game and that was really the play that put it away. But kudos to the Garden because the crowd knew they saw history right away. The roof blew right the fuck off the arena. There really is no historical precedent for John Starks, and really no one like him has come along since. The guy is like that scene in the Grinch when his heart expands, all the fucking time. They should’ve called him All Heart John Starks. His whole career, and really his whole life was an extended myth/fairytale. KING.
4:07: Starks poked the ball out as Jordan was coming up trying to get into his offense and just barely missed the steal. Which is good because if he got it I think a hole would’ve opened in the center of the court and the entire stadium would’ve fallen into the center of the Earth. I didn’t skip ahead that was the first basketball they played in three minutes because they just kept replaying “The Dunk” over and over again.
6:27: 2 point game. This one refuses to end.
7:55: Fucking clutch free throws from Oak.
8:30: This dude John Andraiese just called Jordan Superman. GET OFF HIS FUCKING DICK JOHN TAKE A BREATH
9:05: There was way too much Will Perdue in this game.
0:00: The game is over and there’s only 24 seconds of Knicks celebrating and walking off the court before this clip ends but it’s a beautiful thing to watch. The last great moment of hope we ever had against Jordan and the Bulls as a franchise.
Final Thoughts: So the main purpose of this exercise is the idea that the Knicks were the stiffest competition the dynasty Bulls ever had to contend with, and this game would be the masters thesis behind that idea. The Bulls lost plenty of Playoff and Finals games throughout their run, but I don’t know if there was a smackdown as definitive as what the Knicks did to them in the Garden on this particular evening. It was coming from everywhere. A solid, well balanced attack driven by defense and rebounding but also the offense was so evenly distributed. There were so many heroes and the Bulls just had no answers. You won’t see postseason Jordan throttled the way he was this evening much if ever. Just a fucking phenomenal performance by a great team.
And yet, the Bulls somehow got it down to one possession down the stretch. We were just incapable of putting them away. Who knows what happens if Pippen doesn’t get ejected. Jordan actually went for 36 but he was a revolting 12-32. When people say Kobe modeled his game after Mike I think they’re specifically referring to this game because it was Jordan at his volume shooting inefficient worst. The real incredible takeaway from the game was despite the heroics Doc was actually the straw that stirred the drink. This Knick team was so deep and dangerous. I love it.
The Knicks now head to Chicago holding their homecourt with all the momentum in the world. What could possibly go wrong?