Relitigating the 1994 NBA Finals Game 2: If You Will It, It is No Dream

Where in noted New York Knicks Scholar Abe Beame basks in the magnitude of John Starks.
By    March 19, 2020

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For his self-quarantine, Abe Beame has been watching old NBA games and writing about them. Just kidding, he’s been doing this for months.

Two months ago, I started what I thought would be a regular series over the course of a few weeks focusing on revisiting each game of the 1994 NBA Finals between the Knicks and the Rockets in detail. It’s a self flagellating ritual I return to each Winter in the midst of the doldrums of the NBA season as my beloved Knicks flail through another lost year (I covered the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals between the Bulls and Knicks last year). But looking back, those early moments of 2020 were halcyon days. We had a plentiful schedule of games to watch, Bernie was up in the polls, my kids were able to attend school on a regular basis without fear of becoming carriers of a pandemic, I could actually leave my fucking apartment and make a living because Corona was just a beer I poured. I had other things to write and simply lost track of time. I just looked this up on Twitter and even though the first piece in this series was technically published about 60 days ago, it’s actually been 100,000,000 years. 

Now, in this strange dystopian future we’ve all been abandoned in, with no basketball to follow, with a front runner for the Democratic nomination whose brains are visibly leaking out of his ears, with little social interaction acceptable amongst humans and with my kids looking to be cooped up in an already cramped two bedroom apartment with one bathroom for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to recess once more into the past. 

It’s somehow comforting to remind myself that as a 10-year old, this NBA Final, in which the fucking Knicks made the fucking NBA Finals, was the most traumatic and devastating event in my young life (I would now happily give a spleen to lose in the NBA Finals). Our biggest issues then were merely quaint race riots, a “Democratic” president unmooring the ideological foundation of the party (With the help of an even then old shitty senator from Delaware and his awful crime bill), an American hero repurposed as a wife-murdering psychopath, Ace of Base ruled the airwaves, these were truly the good times.

So let’s go back. I’ll spend my nights subjecting myself to my disappointment and lost innocence, and in it, together, we’ll find a kind of refurbished innocence. An argument for the relativity of sadness and depression, for failure and disappointment. A reminder that no matter how bad things seem, they can always get worse. Welcome back to the relitigation of the 1994 NBA Finals.  

1:36: They’re actually doing a pretty interesting breakdown of how the Rockets need to adjust spacing so the Knicks can’t shut down Hakeem as successfully as they did in the second half of Game 1. What’s funny is the tail is wagging the dog. Today, they wouldn’t be focusing on spreading the floor to open up entry pass angles to Hakeem, they’d be trying to find ways to use Hakeem to manipulate the defense and generate open looks from 3. 

2:20: Holy shit, some epic platitude word salad from Pat Riley on John Starks: “He’s gotta be a player, that’s all. He’s a player, and when he’s not shooting the ball he’s gotta be a player. A player makes plays for other players and he doesn’t force the issue and try to get off.” This is kind of the New York dickhead version of Phil Jackson’s Eastern philosophy zen horse shit.

3:00: Guokas just said if the Knicks are going to win a chip Starks has to be a major contributor. That is some real evil, knife twisting shit, bro.  

3:59: Tonight Hannah Storm is wearing a piece from the “John C. Reilly in Boogie Nights” leisure suit collection. She just did 90 seconds on Carl Herrera and my eyes started bleeding.

5:14: The Nissan slogan in 1994 was: “It’s time to expect more from a car”. I not only want to hear what the fuck they mean by that but I also want to hear Don Draper pitching the slogan as an old man and somehow linking it back to his childhood in a rundown Pennsylvania whore house.

5:39: I wonder what would’ve happened if Riley flipped Mase and Charles Smith and Mase was in with the starters. Feels like a no brainer in the modern NBA.

6:22: Rudy Tomjanovich looks like an unsuccessful life insurance salesman. 

12:19: Can we all just agree Derek Harper is better than Kenny Smith? Just ate his fucking lunch.

12:40: Hilarious observation by Guokas: We use the term pick and roll a lot but rarely do we actually see the other player actually roll to the basket. Now it’s usually a pick and spot up.

14:04: Knicks hit for illegal defense, followed by a Hakeem flush. If you check the Game 1 installment it’s the exact same sequence.

14:43: Really beautiful back and forth between Hakeem and Patrick early. Miss these epic big man matchups. I think it’s why I love Embiid, he always takes the presence of another tall person who dares to play somewhat like a traditional center personally.

15:00: I think Starks just had the first chase down block in league history.

16:34: The chess match between Hakeem and the Knicks defense is fascinating. Hakeem is posting up slightly further out to prevent Patrick from fronting him and drawing fouls as he did on the first possession. Just tracking the subtle adjustments play to play is more fun than people give credit as opposed to rigid, system driven math ball. And no I’m not saying “Better” and I love basketball now I just miss some of the discreet charms of this war of attrition people like to look back on now and shit on. 

19:44: Man. Starks went 3/18 in Game 1 and I didn’t even realize it. It was the worst shooting performance in NBA Finals history. Good thing he can’t do any worse than that, at least for the rest of this series.

24:31: The Rockets must have been doing nothing but lob drills in between games. The Knicks were almost exclusively fronting and trying to deny the inlet, which is weird against a sharp shooting team like Houston, but they keep finding success throwing perfect floaters over the top. 

25:54: Apologies to anyone sitting through this recording, super grainy and pixelated. The things I do for content.

26:56: Filthy passing sequence ignited by Mase that doesn’t result in a bucket. 

27:10: Fucking Carl Herrera. What the actual fuck.

27:23: I’m starting to worry John Starks might actually suck at basketball (Face starts melting like I opened the Ark of the Covenant).

29:31: Whoops sorry Starks is an actual God. 


35:06: Hubert Davis’ career 3 point percentage was 44%. The GOAT? Also apparently his middle name was Ira. 

37:00: “I just love defense.”- Anthony Mason

38:55: Cue Mason hacking Olajuwon on a dance and drop fadeaway jumper.  

41:00: No one has ever had more confidence than Greg Anthony.

42:44: Young Cassel and young Horry jawing at each other over an illegal defense call is the 90s Godzilla v. Mothra

43:57: Is there an equivalent for the Ewing short post midrange jumper? If Hakeem doesn’t come along, does Patrick’s wild array of moves from the basket to mid range become the defining post game of the 90s? Is Kobe going to wherever Patrick was in the aughts to learn his post moves rather than Hakeem?

44:49: Rudy Tomjanovich=90s basketball Willie Loman

45:01: Wow the early 90s Rockets fans were enraged and booed the drafting of Robert Horry. Life comes at you fast. 

45:46: The Rockets said in 94 the Horry pick was the best trade they ever made. I’m reading the unbelievably great Boomtown by Sam Anderson right now, pretty sure the Harden trade leap frogged it. 

46:41: As a long-suffering Knicks fan following offenses plagued by stagnancy and the Iso, it’s such a pleasure watching this prehistoric Rockets offense. Even though they were playing one in four out, there was so much cutting and rotation, so much life. It was a fun brand and not surprising this ultimately won out. 

47:13: I hate but also begrudgingly respect Vernon Maxwell. 

49:44: So I have no idea how these videos were recorded but they have this handheld feel, the cam seems to shake and move at exciting intervals. It kind of feels like that thing that became popular with superhero films in the late aughts, I think Josh Trank introduced it, when you zoom in on wild feats of “found footage” CGI produced super heroism.

50:01: Knicks staff have giant Starter logos on the back of their windbreakers.

52:34: Bout to lick a subway pole find Robert Horry and cough in his mouth. 

52:47: Ewing’s iconic shot might be the baseline jumper. 

1:00:58: They’re doing this highlight package on Rudy T and the instrumental background sounds like a Hootie & The Blowfish beat.

1:01:55: Rudy Tomjanovich’s backstory sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song.

1:08:39: What is the modern equivalent of Oak? A bruiser who has delicate touch. I’d maybe say Millsap with 100% more dickhead?

1:09:45: I went to the New York City Ballet a few weeks ago for this weird showcase they make affordable to casual shmucks interested in passively engaging in the arts with a DJ and free alcohol after the show and I can safely say Hakeem’s pivots in the post, their inspiration and grace, top whatever the avantgarde choreographer I saw is doing uptown right now.   

1:12:18: Hakeem out here making Saved By The Bell  Summer Break volleyball spike blocks.

1:13:36: Derek Harper: American Sniper.

1:17:26: I don’t have a modern equivalent for Vernon Maxwell because I think today he’d be a better player. Perhaps a Westbrook with a shot? He’s a beast.

1:17:42: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Starks (1994).

1:18:21: These feel like good college basketball games where every point carries dire consequences, 40 lead changes, gutting out every half court possession, etc.

1:19:34: Maxwell and Starks are such beautiful natural foils for each other.

1:20:40: I know this brand of basketball is now branded as ugly and worthless but when the Knicks are operating in their nimble, movement happy pick and pop midrange game it’s so beautiful to me AND BEAUTY IS RELATIVE AND YOU CAN’T CALL IT OBJECTIVELY UGLY YOU SNOBBY NERD.

1:22:12: Maybe three insane no calls under the Knicks basket. 

1:22:40: Fuck man, for an all time elite rim protecting big man, Ewing got yammed on so hard so many times.

1:25:45: Sometimes I feel like history hasn’t properly appreciated the greatness of Derek Harper. He was an incredibly reliable two way threat, the type that is in rare supply these days, maybe a bigger Chris Paul with slightly less imagination, less ball dominant and less dangerous on offense, but who knows what he could’ve been in this era and sign me up for that player 10 out of 10 times, yet you never even hear his name mentioned anymore outside of this series and my general obsessive Knicks writing. Disparage him as you will but throughout this Knicks run he was always a threat to take over a high stakes playoffs game. #NeverforgetDerekHarper.

1:29:05: I would put Dave Cowens over Sam Cassel for the best NBA Florida State product of all time but only because my Dad would disown me, not because I ever saw Cowens in his prime or really any clips of him ever just because I’m a good son. Mild shouts to Malik Beasley and Jonathan Isaacs: Show me something. 

1:29:32: Vernon Maxwell was a human cannonball. 

1:30:09: Before commercial breaks, NBC used to do this thing where they would take still shots of the players from the game in question that kind of looked like candids you would use on basketball cards and run a montage and I just really miss the NBA on NBC production design and wish it would come back and I also just generally wish the NBA would come back to NBC and it’s insane to me we may not even get the rest of this season which was so fun and up for grabs and who knows how any of this shit will affect it assuming we even get to find out. 

1:31:06: Everytime Russel Westbrook barrels to the rim downhill and overwhelms the D for an easy bucket Vernon Maxwell gets a royalty check for $0.25

1:32:06: The levels of schadenfreude watching Horry grab his wrist in pain with the slight hope he’ll walk his ass off the court and out of the series is off the charts. 

1:34:30: Cassel was special. 

1:34:45: The “Miller Genuine Draft Genuine Moments” tonight is about Magic Johnson stepping in for Kareem Abdul Jabaar in his rookie year going from point guard to center and racking 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. I think when you factor in degree of difficulty it has to be the greatest Finals performance of all time and it’s why I put Magic higher than most on my all time rankings (Before Lebron I’d say with conviction he was the GOAT, but I also despise Michael Jordan as we established last year). I’d also love some Kareem feedback. I love him, but it was always so hard for me to properly evaluate him because of his physical gifts. He always felt like a cheat code. I know every elite player has dominant physical attributes but Kareem was so fucking tall and graceful, it was like a God playing amongst men. I don’t know why this sentiment doesn’t apply to players who are only a few inches shorter than him but he just seemed like a giant robot who is perfect at basketball, and I also never saw him play live which diminished my appreciation for him. It’s why I love Don Mattingly more than Babe Ruth. I’m probably wrong. Moving on.


1:40:13: The Rockets have an absurd stable of shitty tall white shooters in supply coming off the bench. God knows the levels of Ryan Anderson money they would’ve made had they played in today’s game.

1:43:48: Vernon Maxwell is actively trying to kill you. 

1:46:40: There’s five minutes left in the game and the Knicks are down one and the Rockets have all the momentum and it’s so hard for me to understand how we’re eventually going to win this. 

1:47:25: Oh sorry my bad the answer is of course Derek Harper. 

1:49:37: Iconic jam by Mase.

1:52:43: Pat with a sensational block on Olajuwon. Knicks won this game because they once again put the fucking clamps on down the stretch. Fuck I love this team. 

1:54:22: Patrick yet a fucking gain on D. This guy is different folks. 

1:55:24: If Mase ever participated in a dunk contest I’d vote for him without ever watching the dunks.

1:56:25: Spike Lee was in the crowd. Remember when he was a crucial and beloved figure in the franchise? I saw him walking out of a restaurant in Fort Greene the other day post conflict and he is still dressing like a Knicks Mardi Gras float. Dude is a true disciple.

1:59:40: Gentle reminder that John Starks cares more about everything than you do. 

2:01:09: Watching the Knicks close out a Finals game makes me so conflicted in that I’m absurdly happy about the win and sad about how my life has turned out in the last 26 years of basketball simultaneously. 

2:01:47: JFC, this was our first win in Houston since 1987. How is that possible??

2:01:58: Derek Harper’s final line was 18 points, 7 assists and 3 steals. Look at God.

2:02:42: The Knicks entire FG % from the floor was 52%. Marv is in awe.

2:03:24: Game 3 is (er, was) on a Sunday in the Garden and Game 4 is on a Wednesday, how the fuck is that possible? Also Broderick is on Leno if anyone wants to go back to dig and see what was happening on Late Night in 94. 

Ewing v. Olajuwon Watch: Patrick: 16 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 6 blocks. Hakeem: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks. 

So is this even a contest? Yes Hakeem won the point differential but he had 21 going into the fourth quarter. Patrick’s defense made the difference down the stretch once again. Knicks won the fucking game. The guy was achingly close to a triple double with blocks, are you not entertained? Pat won this one bruh.

Final Thoughts: The Knicks  were 9-1 at home throughout the playoffs. They stole home court from the Rockets and showed an ability to lock them down in the second half of these crucial Finals matchups. We’re heading back to New York with the series knotted and all the momentum, and even the potential to simply end it back in New York. What could possibly go wrong?

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