With the NBA season over and the lockout blocking any offseason activity, I find myself jonesing for some NBA Action, and watching old drafts on NBA TV just isn't enough. So today, I watched Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. Even though Michael Jordan retired before the season, coach Phil Jackson's squad rallied around star Scottie Pippen and won 55 games during the regular season. Meanwhile in New York, the Knicks had the second best record in the Eastern Conference at 57-25, and were considered the favorites to come out of the East. The Knicks took the first two games of the series in New York, while the Bulls took the next two in Chicago. In game 5, the home team would hold serve, as the Knicks won 87-86 thanks to a controversial foul by Scottie Pippen with 2.1 seconds remaining. After the foul, Hubert Davis hit two free throws to give the Knicks the winning points. A few notes about this game:
- Even before the foul on Davis, the officiating for this game was less than stellar. The Knicks shot 25 free throws to the Bulls 11, and it wasn't like they were attacking the basket, as most of the time they would settle for jump shots. Patrick Ewing took two charges directly underneath the basket, a point which the Bulls argued since most of the time, a call like that would go against the defender. In fact, in today's NBA it would. B.J. Armstrong nearly got knocked out by a moving screen from Ewing, but the refs let them play. To be fair, there were a couple foul calls on Pippen that were questionable at best, so at least the refs were consistently poor. Then there was the play at the end. Was there contact by Pippen on Davis? A little, but it happened well after the shot was in the air and didn't look as if it affected the shot in any way. There was probably 5 or 6 similar plays by defenders on jump shots that didn't get called, but ref Hue Hollins saw enough in his mind to call the foul. Good thing for the Knicks too, as Davis missed an open three there with Pippen getting there late.
- If you like your NBA superstars to come through in the clutch, well, this game wasn't for you. On the one hand we have Ewing, who started out on fire in the first quarter, scoring 12 points and hitting his first four shots from the field. Then he went scoreless during the next two periods, mainly because he and the rest of the Knicks fell in love with the jump shot to mixed results. In the fourth, Ewing started to come around a little, but with 31.4 seconds left and the Knicks down one, Ewing went to the free-throw line and clanked two free throws. Overall, Ewing scored 20 points and pulled down 13 boards, but he also went 2-7 from the free throw line and would have been the goat if Davis hadn't bailed him out. On the other side, there was Pippen. For the first three quarters, Pippen was the best player on the court, leading the Bulls back after the Knicks started the game on a huge run, sinking three 3-pointers and playing great defense. Then the fourth quarter came around and Pippen wasn't on the court for the first five and a half minutes as coach Phil Jackson played a hunch and left his reserves in. The bench played well and kept the Bulls ahead, but when Pippen came back in, he didn't look like the same player and was a non-factor in the final minutes of the game. He made two free throws, committed a couple of fouls, and that was it.
- You know, I forgot how good B.J. Armstrong was. The Bulls point guard was on fire in this game, scoring 21 points on 9-12 shooting from the field. Whether he was wide open or heavily guarded, Armstrong was knocking shots down, and many times announcer Hubie Brown was wondering why the Bulls weren't getting the ball to Armstrong more. Honestly, I found myself wondering the same thing, especially with guys like Pete Myers and Bill Cartwright on the court. Speaking of Hubie, I kind of felt bad for his partner Ron Tholin, because Hubie loves to talk on and on and on. I mean, I like Hubie Brown as an announcer, but the guys does like to talk.
- The Knicks were a little shorthanded in the game, as starting point guard Derek Harper was suspended for an altercation earlier in the series and Doc Rivers was injured, leaving Greg Anthony and the little-known Corey Gaines as the only two point guards on the Knicks roster. After a rough game 4, Anthony played well in this game, dishing out eight assists while only turning the ball over once. Also, small forward Charles Smith had his moments, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the second quarter, although he didn't play particularly well in the fourth quarter.
- Earlier in the series, a controversy developed after the Bulls Toni Kukoc took the game ending shot in game 3, while Pippen decided it'd be best for him to sit on the bench after learning the play wasn't called for him. Well, after Davis made the free throw and the Bulls called timeout, the camera was focused on Pippen the entire time, while the announcers ignored the elephant in the room and Hubie talked about what the Bulls should do in the situation. In this case, the play was called for Pippen, so it was a good thing he decided to remain out there this time, but it was all for naught as Anthony Mason blocked the inbound pass.
After this game, the Bulls would come back to Chicago and win game six, but the Knicks prevailed in Game 7, and would eventually go all the way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, Hubert Davis would become a sports hero in New York, if just for a moment or two, while Hue Hollins would become the least favorite referee in Chicago. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have a comment relating to this post, or an idea for a future post, then feel free to share by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.