With tonight’s Knicks-Spurs matchup in mind, I think a visit back to the 1999 NBA Finals is in order.
These teams have gone in total opposite directions since meeting in the NBA Finals more than 15 years ago. While San Antonio has steamrolled over the last decade, winning three more championships and quietly building a powerhouse around Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovic, New York has been through seven head coaches and numerous rebuilding projects resulting in a playoff record 18-28.
However, for Knicks fans, their appearance in the 1999 NBA Finals was more about the miracle run that got them there. The players would never admit to feeling happy just to be there, but considering the Knicks entered the playoffs as an eight-seed, that sentiment was felt around the city. In retrospect the Knicks never really had a chance against the Hall-of-Fame frontcourt of Duncan and David Robinson, especially with Patrick Ewing downed by injury and Larry Johnson playing hurt, but the spirit of that team will live on forever.
Spurs 89, Knicks 77 – The Spurs made a statement early, dominating the first half of play in the series. By halftime, Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds and the Knicks set an NBA Finals record for least amount of points in a quarter, when they put up only 10 in the second.
Spurs 80, Knicks 67 – Duncan and Robinson combined for nine blocks, and if you couldn’t tell by the score, the Knicks just couldn’t get anything going offensively. New York didn’t score more than 20 points in any quarter, sending them back home with a 2-0 series deficit.
Knicks 89, Spurs 81 – The Spurs defense had no answer for Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, who combined for 58 total points. The Knicks never trailed, ending San Antonio’s playoff record 12-game winning streak.
Spurs 96, Knicks 89 – Duncan and Robinson outrebounded the Knicks 35-34, putting the Spurs in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series. Duncan finished with 28 points and 18 rebounds.
Spurs 78, Knicks 77 – Duncan and Sprewell put on a show in the second half, combining for 28 of 29 consecutive points at one moment, but the Knicks fell just short when Avery Johnson hit a game-winning jumper, giving the Spurs their first NBA Championship.
Tim Duncan – 27.4 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 blocks per game