It’s not playoff time yet, but with the Knicks needing every win they can get down the stretch, it might as well be. If Toronto takes care of the New York tomorrow, it won’t be the first time that the team is sent packing by the Raptors.
2001 was the 14th consecutive season that the New York Knicks made the playoffs. However, for the first time in as many years, they entered the postseason without their warrior and go-to player, Patrick Ewing.
The Knicks swept the Raptors the year prior, but things weren’t so easy this time around. After winning two out of the first three games, New York looked to be on their way to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the 10th season in a row. Unfortunately, Toronto had other thoughts. A seven-point Game 4 victory by the Raptors set up a deciding fifth game. This was back when the NBA got right to the point, and didn’t drag out series like Heat-Bucks for the extra night of cash.
Game 5 at The Garden should’ve been a lock for the Knicks, but it simply wasn’t their night. New York turned the ball over 17 times and, and trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half. Despite a furious comeback, led by Latrell Sprewell’s 29 points, they weren’t able to execute down the stretch. Sprewell was the only Knick to shoot well and later expressed his displeasure with his supporting cast.
Toronto advanced to play the first-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in one of the most entertaining series of the post-Jordan era, thanks to the head-to-head matchup of Vince Carter and Allen Iverson. The Sixers won it in seven games and went on to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, back when that only meant an opportunity to get steamrolled by the Kobe-Shaq Lakers.
That 2001 Raptors roster had quite a few Knicks ties. Charles Oakley and Chris Childs were still representing Canada after being traded for Marcus Camby back in 1998. Seeing the a scraggly haired, scruffy bearded Oak-man wearing the purple and red never really felt right. Also suiting up for Toronto were Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams, who were both post-prime participants of the Isiah Thomas era.
Since that series, New York has been to the playoffs just four times, never making it past the second round. This year will mark Toronto’s third postseason appearance, but will they be joined by the Knicks? Tomorrow night will go a long way towards determining just that.