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The Most Knicks Moment Ever* Tournament: The Sweet 16

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The best of each bracket go at it.

Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller (R) shouts as he runs Photo credit should read MARK D. PHILLIPS/AFP via Getty Images

What started in March as 64 moments is down to 16. There is joy. Misery. Dunks. Violence. Injuries. WTFs. And J.R. Smith. Today we settle all family business and scale down to the elite eight. Place your votes and help select the winner in each bracket.

Joy Division Finals

  • LARRY JOHNSON’S 4-POINT PLAY VS. LINSANITY

These two have run roughshod throughout the tournament. At first glance, they’re apples and oranges: one a single moment in time, the other stretching for weeks. But neither is as simple as that. If the Knicks had lost the ‘99 conference finals against Indiana, Larry Johnson’s four-point play would be just another Endy Chavez catch.

But the Knicks did win the series, advancing to just their second Finals since the hallowed 1970s teams. Although New York fell in the end, the journey was magical enough on its own. So LJ’s shot is more like Aaron Boone’s homer off Tim Wakefield in the 2003 ALCS.

Linsanity came and went in a season that didn’t really resonate much beyond that — unless you, too, would drop confetti on your home floor for winning Game 4 of a first-round series after losing the first three by an average of 20 points. But again, a larger context matters here. Between eliminating the Heat for the third straight playoffs in 2000 and Jeremy Lin’s real-life Hollywood story, how often did Knick fans experience simple, pure joy? Here’s a short timeline of the years in-between those endpoints:

  • 2000: Patrick Ewing is traded for crap.
  • 2001: Marcus Camby’s mother & sisters are held hostage at knifepoint during the playoffs.
  • 2002: The Knicks miss the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
  • 2003: Isiah Thomas comes to power.
  • 2004-2006: Isiah still in power...
  • 2006: Anucha Brown Sanders files a sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah, Madison Square Garden and eventually James Dolan, charging that MSG fired her after she complained about Thomas’ harassment.
  • 2007: A jury finds in favor of Sanders, rewarding her $11.6M in punitive damages, more than she had even asked for. Later MSG announces it’s settled for a lesser amount. That lesser amount turns out to be $11.5M.
  • 2007 thru 2008: Isiah still in power...
  • 2009: After Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford score 29 each in a win over the Thunder, giving the 6-3 Knicks their best start in 10 years, the team trades both players as part of a two-year tank designed to land LeBron James.
  • 2010: LeBron takes his talents to South Beach.
  • 2011: In the midst of their best season in 10 years, led by a head coach and a star forward in perfect harmony, the Knicks trade half their team plus multiple draft picks for another star forward, one whose game is antithetical to the coach’s philosophy and the other star forward’s strengths. Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are teammates from 2011-2015. They win two playoff games together.

Linsanity wasn’t just a nice couple of weeks. It was the rare instance of truth being more glorious than fiction. And it didn’t happen to the Spurs or the Heat or the Lakers. It happened to a fan base that had wandered the wilderness with nary a drop of manna for over a decade. Given that the Knicks have only had one good year since, the shine of those three weeks is no less brilliant than it was back in those simpler days, when Donald Trump was still a joke, only not one that might get you killed.

Poll

Greater joy?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Larry Johnson’s four-point play
    (129 votes)
  • 53%
    Linsanity
    (151 votes)
280 votes total Vote Now

Dunk Finals

  • JOHN STARKS’ “THE DUNK” VS. J.R. SMITH’S REVERSE ALLEY-OOP

This is another vote that probably boils down to what your values are.

John Starks’ dunk in Game 2 of the 1993 conference finals clinched the win. It put the Knicks up 2-0 over the Bulls; the only other time they led Chicago in any series was the year prior when they won Game 1. It seemed as if the dunk tilted probability too far against the two-time defending champs. After all, the Knicks had lost just six games over two months. The Bulls would need to win four straight or four out of five to win the series. What were the odds of that happening?

J.R. Smith’s dunk came in a lower stakes game, but it was the exclamation point on a win the 2013 Knicks still sorely needed. After flying out of the gates 6-0 and 14-4 that season and raising hopes for the first time in a long time, New York suffered a bit of a stumble around the holidays, dropping four of six. The Spurs arrived in New York just after New Year’s with a 25-9 record, ready for revenge after falling at home to the Knicks in November thanks to a blown fourth-quarter lead.

Starks and Smith were both multi-dimensional talents who toed the line between intense and wackadoo. Both dunks brought joy where anxiety sought a toe-hold on our hearts. Both were impressive enough to make you jump out of your seat.

Only one can advance.

Poll

Greater dunk?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    John Starks vs. Chicago
    (219 votes)
  • 12%
    J.R. Smith vs. San Antonio
    (30 votes)
249 votes total Vote Now

Miseries Finals

  • REGGIE MILLER’S 8.9 SECONDS VS. PATRICK EWING’S MISSED FINGER-ROLL

Apparently two weeks in May 1995 was the most miserable point in Knicks history: our two finalists in “Miseries” bookend New York’s second-round loss to Indiana. Reggie Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds stole Game 1 for the Pacers, while Patrick Ewing’s missed finger-roll in Game 7 sealed the deal. It may be therapeutic for a moment to remember that the Knicks had tortured the Pacers the prior two years in the playoffs, and it looked like that would continue after Ewing’s game-winner in Game 5. Remember: the Knicks were down 3-1 and trailing by one with six seconds left before this happened.

Back to life. Back to reality. The Ewing game-winner was only the eye of a storm that would blow away the Pat Riley era in New York and the brief one-sidedness of this rivalry. Which was worse: the storm’s arrival? Or its last gasp?

Poll

Greater misery?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Reggie Miller’s 8.9 seconds
    (100 votes)
  • 56%
    Patrick Ewing’s missed finger-roll
    (132 votes)
232 votes total Vote Now

J.R. Smith Finals

  • RIHANNA VS. “THE PIPE”

I’ll have more to say about whoever wins in the next round. For now, this feels like enough.

Poll

Greater J.R. being J.R.?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Called out mid-playoffs by Rihanna
    (73 votes)
  • 67%
    The pipe
    (153 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now

Joy Division II Finals

  • BEATING BOSTON IN 1990 VS. HUBERT DAVIS BEATING CHICAGO GAME 5 1994

I pro’ly should have called this the Schadenfreude Finals. P&T has tried on more than one occasion to settle the question of who the Knicks’ most hated rival is. Maybe the greater joy between these two nominees comes down to who you hate more. The comeback from 0-2 down to beat the Celtics in the first round in 1990 didn’t create any momentum beyond that; in the second round the Pistons easily dispatched the Knicks 4-1. Beating the Jordan-less Bulls in 1994 certainly saved a lot of face, and it did propel the Knicks to their first Finals since 1973, but the goal that season wasn’t to beat the Jordan-less Bulls or lose a competitive Finals.

And yet, knowing how much it must have hurt Boston and their fans to blow a 2-0 lead, and that it was the first time they’d failed to advance past the first round with Larry Bird active, can make a season in and of itself. My father’s followed the Knicks since before Willis Reed was drafted. He’s seen the Knicks win championships. To this day ask him what team he hates the most and the answer comes out before the question is finished: the Boston Celtics. Ask him what player he hated the most and he still says “Don Nelson” the way New Yorkers who know spit out “Robert Moses.” My daughter is seven and still young enough and sweet enough to believe in magic. Anytime she sees the Celtics on TV, she rushes to tell me, and to tell me she hates them.

Seeing Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen and all the Jordanaries sulk off the floor as losers was something no NBA fan had seen in four seasons, and was a sight Knick fans had dreamed of for six. And remember: at the time Pippen looked set to leave after refusing to leave the bench at the end of Game 3, Horace Grant would leave for Orlando that summer, and Michael Jordan was still an outfielder. The Hubert Davis Game didn’t just help win the series against a hated rival; it felt briefly like it put a stake through their heart. If only...

Poll

Greater joy?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Coming back to beat Boston in 1990
    (69 votes)
  • 64%
    Hubert Davis/beating Chicago in 1994
    (127 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

“I choose violence” Finals

  • JOHN STARKS HEADBUTTS REGGIE MILLER VS. THE P.J. BROWN ATROCITY

What is more Knicks-y? Taking revenge on a jerk who deserves it, even if it threatens a greater goal you’ve been working toward? Or standing up to a bully who just assaulted your brother, even if it threatens a greater goal you’ve been working toward?

Poll

Greater violence?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    John Starks headbutts Reggie Miller
    (81 votes)
  • 61%
    The Knicks defend Charlie Ward
    (128 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now

Injuries Finals

  • PATRICK EWING’S ACHILLES 1999 VS. KRISTAPS PORZINGIS’ ACL 2018

I have avoided voting throughout this tournament. And I really do want to keep my biases and preferences out of the process. I will simply say this: one of these injuries knocked the greatest Knick of all-time out for the season two games into the conference finals. The other chased a snake from the grass.

Poll

Greater injury?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Patrick Ewing’s Achilles in 1999
    (191 votes)
  • 13%
    Kristaps Porziņģis’ ACL in 2018
    (29 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now

(I don’t really think KP’s a snake. It just feels better to blame him than consider the alternative scenarios.)

WTF/LOL Finals

  • ANDREA BARGNANI’S ILL-TIMED 3 VS. ALEXEY SHVED’S WHATEVER THAT THING WAS

There may be no crazier truth to this entire tournament than this Sweet 16 matchup, and the fact that Alexey Shved and Andrea Bargnani topped Michael Jordan AND Andrea Bargnani to get here.

How do you take your tea? With a shot of stupid, or a dash of anti-gravity?

Poll

Greatest WTF/LOL?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Andrea Bargnani’s WTF three-point attempt
    (141 votes)
  • 35%
    Alexey Shved’s WTF even was that?
    (77 votes)
218 votes total Vote Now

Voting will last about a week. See you soons, ya loons.