Boston Celtics? Never heard of 'em!
Onwards and upwards, Knicks fans! Every year, four of the 15 Eastern Conference teams advance out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, so, at first glance, this doesn't seem like a terribly impressive accomplishment. But consider this: until yesterday, every single Eastern Conference city had hosted a playoff first-round winner more recently than New York. Even the unfortunate fans in Carolina witnessed the old Charlotte Hornets win a series in 2002. So...uh, yeah...the Knicks were bad...emphasis on "were."
Now that the relief and giddiness have subsided, I'm ready to take a look the Knicks' second-round opponent. I gotta tell you guys, after this Celtics series it's gonna be nice to be able to focus purely on the basketball, and not on any historical bad blood or rage-inducing memories from childhood.
-checks next round opponent-
Bossman Seth probably doesn't remember this, because he was in utero at the time, but these two teams have a bit of playoff history themselves - in the eight seasons between 1993 and 2000, the Knicks met the Pacers in the playoffs a mind-boggling six times (I only really remember '98 forward. I had no idea what was going on in '95. -Seth). Here's the breakdown:
- 3 Knicks series wins ('93 First Round, '94 Conference Finals, '99 Conference Finals)
- 3 Pacers series wins ('95 Conference Semis, '98 Conference Semis, '00 Conference Finals)
- 35 Total Games played (Pacers lead, 18-17)
- Both teams won a Game 7 at MSG (Knicks in '94, Pacers in '95)
- The only time the Pacers made the NBA Finals (2000), they beat the Knicks. The only two times the Knicks have made the Finals in the last 40 years ('94, '99), they beat the Pacers.
- Reggie Miller is a punk-ass bitch.
Both of these teams have a signature playoff moment against the other. For the Pacers, it's Reggie Miller's Game 5 heroics in '94 (Check out the referee for that game, by the way). For the Knicks, it's Larry Johnson's four-point play in '99. This series should provide a chance at vindication for all those fans who truly believe that the networks are out to stick it to the Knicks. If you're really that paranoid, I suggest you keep track of how many times each highlight is shown during this series - if Reggie >>>> LJ, then you may have a point.
Game 1 of this series will be the first Reggie-less playoff game in the history of this rivalry, though I'm sure he'll show up and get plenty of camera time. Unless, that is, some intrepid P&T'er with tickets to Game 1 happens to spot Reggie before tip-off and stuffs him in a closet for the duration of the series. It shouldn't be too difficult...the dude only weighs like 80 pounds. Time to step up, people!
Once Reggie is locked away in that closet - where he belongs! - what should we make of this current rivalry? The key players are all retired and either broadcasting (Reggie, Patrick Ewing), refereeing (Haywoode Workman), coaching (Mark Jackson), making ignorant old-timer comments about Jason Collins (Mark Jackson, Larry Johnson) or dodging the IRS (Anthony Mason, Latrell Sprewell). Pacers star Paul George turned three years old during the first Knicks-Pacers. These are different dudes, dude.
I'm hoping to take a more positive approach to this Pacers series. I'm coming into Game 1 free of the psychic scars inflicted over the years by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Beating Indiana in the playoffs will never stop being enjoyable for me, of course, but would losing to this particular Indiana team bother me more than losing to, say, the Hawks? I'd like to think not.
So what about you, P&T'ers? How are you approaching the rebirth of the Knicks-Pacers rivalry? Take the poll, and go Knicks!