The Hardaway family is forever connected by the Knicks-Heat rivalry. Tonight, the youngest will play his first game against the team that retired his old man’s number. Hopefully, Hardaway Jr. can do as much damage to the Heat as his daddy did to the Knicks in the 1997 NBA Playoffs.
After a Game 4 victory, the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals was supposed to belong to the Knicks. It was the first time these two teams had ever met in the playoffs, and with a 3-1 lead, it looked like New York was well on their way Eastern Conference Finals, where once again, Michael Jordan was waiting for his next victim. However, a brawl instigated by none other than P.J. Brown changed it all in Game 5.
This fight was the first of what was to be many over the next five years, and the suspensions that resulted from it fueled the rivalry even further. Without Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, and Charlie Ward, the Knicks had no chance in Game 6. John Starks and Larry Johnson sat out Game 7. P.J. Brown sat out both contests, but he was the only Miami Heat player to be penalized.
Game 7 was where Tim Hardaway made himself a villain in New York. He knocked down six of his team’s 11 threes (this was before the three-pointer was a major part of team’s offenses) en route to a 38-point, 7-assist, 5-steal performance. It seemed like everything he touched turned to gold. The Heat went on to face Jordan’s Bulls, only to be ousted in five games, leaving New Yorkers to wonder whether their team could have put up a better fight, and possibly have moved on to play in the NBA Finals if it weren’t for the suspensions. Hardaway was untouchable that Game 7, and Knicks fans can only hope that his son will bring the Knicks equal success down the road.