Be strong Boston, America has your back

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The Boston Marathon is one of the great sports events in America. I’ve been to more than 10 Boston Marathons through the years, from covering races in the 1970s (here’s me interviewing four-time Boston winner Bill Rodgers at Boston College, training for the 1978 Marathon) to recent years. Seen friends run from the vantage of prime seats at the finish line on Boylston Street. The unspeakable horrors of the 2013 Boston Marathon will never be forgotten. But Americans will not be terrified.  Boston is strong and resilient, and will run again. We witnessed the true American spirit in the moments after the bombings, where first responders rushed in to to help the victims. Our hearts go out to those who were killed and injured. God bless America.

10 essentials on Knicks-Celtics playoff rivalry

Here are 10 things you absolutely had to know about the storied playoff history between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, the NBA’s two remaining charter franchises.

1. All-Time Record
The Celtics and Knicks are meeting for the 14th time in playoff hyistory.  Boston won seven of the previous 13, including a 2-0 win in a curious 1954 round robin with the Syracuse Nats. Overall Boston leads the series 34-27.

2. Common Foes
That’s second all-time to the 18th playoff meetings between Boston and the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. They have met 19 times, though just twice since 1985.

3. The First Time
Boston faced New York for the first time in 1951, when the Knicks beat the Celtics, 2-0 behind Max Zaslofsky, a guard from Brooklyn and St. John’s, who averaged 17.9 points a game.

4. Knicks in the 50s
The Knicks won the first three playoff meetings  — in 1951, 1952 and 1953 — and advanced to the NBA Finals each year, losing all three times.

5. Eventual Champs
Four times the winner of the Celtics-Knicks playoff series has gone on to win the NBA Championship — Boston in 1969, 1974 and 1984 and New York in 1973.

6. Seventh Heaven
Twice the series has gone seven games, in 1973 and 1984. The Celtics had never lost a Game 7 before 1973, but the Knicks marched into Boston Garden and won 94-78 behind Walt Frazier.

7. Larry Legend
The Knicks pushed the Celtics to seven games in 1984, but Boston dominated the finale and won 121-104 behind Larry Bird, who averaged a career post-season high 27.5 points that year.

8. King of the Court
Knicks forward Bernard King averaged 29.1 points per game for the Knicks in the 1984 series, the highest single series scoring average in the history of the rivalry.

9. The Last Time
The Celtics swept the Knicks in four straight in a 2011 first round meeting. Before that, they last met in the playoffs back in the spring of 1990, when Paul Pierce was 12 years old and rooting for the Lakers; Carmelo Anthony was in kindergarten.

10. Knicks Break Streak
In 1990, the Knicks rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five series and won Game 5 to break a 26-game losing streak over six years at Boston Garden.

Will these Knicks have the 1973 knack?

The 1973 Knicks….and Spike Lee….were reunited recently at Madison Square Garden.

Through the years, New York sports fans have been spoiled by success. The Yankees have won more championships than any other professional team in North America. The Giants have won a pair of Super Bowls since 2008, both stirring wins over the favored new England Patriots. The Mets and the Jets have experienced miracle moments. Even the Rangers ended a 54-year drought to win the 1994 Stanley Cup.

And then there are the New York Knicks, Gotham’s answer to the Chicago Cubs, who for all their failures throughout the years might as well be stationed in Cleveland.

The Knicks enter the playoffs as second seed in the East, a team with high expectations but also a team with the weight of the world on its shoulders.

It’s been 40 years since the Knicks, one of the NBA’s two remaining charter franchises (the Boston Celtics are the other), last won a title. Back in 1973. Watergate was percolating, gasoline cost 40 centers a gallon, and George Steinbrenner was buying the Yankees from CBS for $12 million.

Things were different on the court too. For the most part, the game was played below the rim. The players wore tight shorts and funny sneakers and had long hair. And there was no three-point line.

Some refer to the 1973 Knicks as the forgotten champions. New York had won its first NBA title three years earlier, a championship ingrained in basketball lore when injured center Willis Reed walked on the Madison Square Garden court to spark his teammates to a Game 7 victory.

After losing the  Lakers in five games in the NBA Finals in 1972, the Knicks realized their window of opportunity was closing fast. But with a Hall of Fame starting five — Reed was joined by forwards Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley and guards Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe — the Knicks beat Boston in seven games in the Eastern finals, then took Los Angeles in five games for the championship.

Every Knick team since then has been unfavorably compared to those two championship squads of the early 70s.

Until recently, no known footage of that 1973 championship clincher existed. Proving that perhaps you can go back, the MSG Network recently unearthed a copy of that Game 5 win.

We have a Cinderella, and she’s from Wichita

This year’s NCAA Cinderella is a Shocker. Ninth-seeded Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference knocked off #1 seed Gonzaga and #2 seed Ohio State in a surprising run to the Final Four. Wichita evoked memories of mid-majors like George Mason, VCU, and  Butler, other recent tournament darlings who made it to the last dance.

For Wichita, it’s been quite the NCAA drought. The last time the Shockers advanced this far, in 1965, LBJ was President, “The Sound of Music” was released, the Beatles played at Shea Stadium and gasoline cost 31 center per gallon.

That year Wichita State survived the in-season losses of two future NBA players, All-American forward Dave Stallworth and center Nate Bowman. Stallworth’s eligibility expired in the middle of the season, and Bowman was declared academically ineligible.

Still the Shockers persevered. They were ranked No. 1 in the country in December, won the MVC by two games, then beat SMU and Oklahoma State to reach the Final Four in Portland, Oregon

The Shockers lost to eventual champion UCLA, coached by the legendary John Wooden, in the semifinals. In those days, the semi losers played in a consolation game for third place.

Wichita fell to Princeton 118-82 in a game in which Bill Bradley, pictured above, scored a Final Four record 58 points. That night, Bradley made 22-of-29 field goals and 14-of-15 free throws to set a record which has stood for nearly 50 years.

UCLA, led by guard Gail Goodrich, went on to beat Michigan and All-American Cazzie Russell for its second consecutive NCAA title. The Bruins, sparked by Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and others, would go on to win 10 NCAA titles in a 12-year span.

Stallworth, Bowman, Bradley and Russell were all members of the New York Knicks 1970 NBA championship team. A year later, Stallworth was traded to the Baltimore Bullets along with Mike Riordan for Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. And Russell was dealt to the San Francisco Warriors for Jerry Lucas.

Bowman, who filled in for Willis Reed in that famed 1970 Game Seven against the Lakers and actually outscored the Knicks captain 6-4, was sent to the Buffalo Braves along with Mike Silliman for cash after the 1970 season. Bradley played his entire 10-year career with the Knicks and became both a Hall of Famer and a United States Senator.