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.


Hanging 50 at the Garden

Golden State’s Stephen Curry, right, recently lit up Madison Square Garden for 54 points, making 11 of 13 three-pointers in a loss to the Knicks. Curry’s majestic performance raised the obvious questions about all-time scoring heroics at MSG.

New York Newsday has a slide show on MSG’s 50-point games at both the old Garden on Eighth Avenue and the current facility atop Penn Station, which opened in 1968. Here are 10 factoids about the top scoring games at Madison Square Garden, the so-called world’s most famous arena and the mecca of basketball.

1. No surprise here. Wilt Chamberlain has held the record for most points scored at MSG for more than 50 years. In November of 1962, the Big Dipper, playing for the San Francisco Warriors, dropped 73 points on the Knicks at the old Garden.

2. Chamberlain indeed has recorded five of the top eight scoring games at MSG. In addition to his 73-point outburst, Wilt scored 62 (3rd all-time), 59 (6th), and 58 twice (7th and 8th). All came at the old Garden in a four-year span between 1960 and 1964.

3. Lakers forward Elgin Baylor set the NBA single-game scoring record in November, 1960, when he scored 71 against the Knicks. Baylor also had 25 rebounds at MSG that night.

4. Another Laker, Kobe Bryant, scored 61 at the current MSG — aka MSG IV, the NBA’s oldest arena — in February of 2009. Bryant made all 20 of his free throws that night.

5. The Knick single-game scoring record is 60, set by Bernard King, left, on Christmas Day in 1984 in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. That new Garden record stood for nearly 25 years until Kobe broke it.

6. All told, five Knicks have eclipsed 50 points at the Garden. Richie Guerin had 57 and 51 at the old MSG, and King (55,52), Patrick Ewing (51,50), Jamaal Crawford (52) and Allan Houston (50) at the new place.

7. Guerin’s 57 in 1959 broke the Garden record held by Neil Johnston of the Philadelphia Warriors. Johnston was the first player to score 50 points in a game against the Syracuse Nationals in 1954 — part of an all-NBA doubleheader at MSG.

8. Michael Jordan twice scored 50 at MSG, including the famous double nickel 55 in 1995. Exactly 3,069 days earlier Jordan hit for 50 in 1986, the only player to shoot less than 50 percent in a 50-point effort at the Garden.

9. As a Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James surpassed the half century mark twice in New York, with 52 in 2009 and 50 one year earlier. At the time, LeBron’s 50-point, 10-assist game was only the third since the ABA-NBA merger.

10. The only other players to score 50 or more in an NBA game at the Garden were Rick Barry, who scored 57 as a rookie with San Francisco in 1965 and Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons, who scored 51 points in a triple overtime loss to the Knicks in 200


10 things you may not know about Pistol Pete

Tempus fugit. It’s been 25 years since Peter Press Maravich, aka Pistol Pete, left us tragically in the winter of 1988. Many of his amazing exploits have been obscured by the haze of time, but Pete Maravich —  floppy mop, droopy socks and skinny frame — was a basketball wizard. In Maravich, published in 2006, author Wayne Federman chronicles many of the Pistol’s exploits throughout his collegiate and NBA career. Here are 10 amazing Pistol Pete factoids you can use to impress your friends:

1. Pete Maravich, all-time scoring leader in college, averaged 44.2 ppg over three years at LSU. He holds numerous NCAA records, including as highest scoring average in a season (44.5 in 1969-70), most points in a career (3,667) and most points in a season (1,381 in 1969-70).

2. He scored 50 in more points 28 times in the NCAA, and scored 40 or more 56 times. He once scored 50 points three games in a row. He was a three-time All-American.

3. Maravich is one of only three players — along with Paul Arizin and Rick Barry — to lead both the NCAA and NBA in scoring.

4. He was selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 NBA draft. behind Bob Lanier of St. Bonaventure and Rudy Tomjanovich of Michigan.

5. Pistol Pete led the NBA in scoring in 1976-77 with the New Orleans Jazz. He averaged a career-high 31.1 points per game that year.

6. That year he scored a career-high 68 points against the Knicks, setting a record by scoring the most points ever for a player who fouled out of an NBA game.

7. Imagine if Maravich, with unlimited range, had played during the three-point era. It wasn’t until his final season, split between Utah and Boston in 1979-80, that Pete played when the three-point rule was in effect.

8. Maravich, who averaged 24.2 ppg for his career, never got the championship ring he desired. He just missed in Boston, where the Celtics won in 1981, the year after he retired

9. Pistol Pete was only 40 when he died of heart failure while playing pickup basketball. It was later learned that he had been born with a dangerously malformed heart — his left coronary artery had never fully developed.

10. The plaudits rolled in when Pete died. Rick Barry called him, “the greatest ball handler I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Magic Johnson said, “The passes he made were unbelievable. He was so ahead of his time.” And from Larry Bird:  “When he stepped on the court, it was like wearing a sign. ‘Watch out. I know how to play this game.”‘


IBM’s Advance Scout was once NBA All-Star

Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal shared MVP honors at the 2000 NBA All-Star Game. But the real story was IBM’s Advance Scout, which used data mining to help NBA teams win.

Some 13 years ago, IBM hosted a press conference at the 49th NBA All-Star Game, which took place at the Oakland Arena in California. We were flacking Advance Scout, a customized IBM data mining application that NBA teams were using to discover hidden patterns from data.

It was in Sunday February, 13, 2000, shortly after the world survived Y2K. The Internet was just starting to become popular. Big data, the cloud and Smarter Planet weren’t ready for prime time.

Advance Scout was developed by an IBM T.J Watson Center researcher, Dr. Inderpal Bhandari, an expert in data mining and later the founder and CEO of Virtual Gold, an IBM Business Partner.

The innovative application was a trend-setter, a very early player in data analysis for non-technical users. At one point, some 25 NBA teams used Advance Scout to develop game plans and make real-time, game-time decisions.

Data mining was credited with helping the Orlando Magic nearly pull off a playoff upset against the second-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the 1997 NBA playoffs. And it helped the Toronto Raptors make the playoffs in 2000 before they were swept by the Knicks.

In Oakland, IBM brought in about 10 newspaper and IT trade reporters, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the National Post of Canada, InfoWorld and PC Week, to a press event before the All-Star game. Dr. Bhandari participated along with the late Jim Kelly, an IBM marketing executive, and Brian James, then an assistant coach with the Raptors.

In the All-Star Game that weekend, the Raptors’ Vince Carter won the slam dunk competition. The West beat the East 137-126. Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal combined for 46 points and 23 rebounds and were named co-MVPs. Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson led all scorers with 26 points.

One of my highlights was meeting Oscar Robertson on an elevator at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.


Connecting the dots — Fitchburg to the Knicks

 

Life is a long, lasting litany of links. Connect the dots and find the connection between people and events past, present and future. Recently, I discovered my connection to the New York Knicks.

The story begins in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1977, when a young coach, fresh out of Fitchburg State College, led Notre Dame High School to a 26-2 record and a state championship.

That coach was Jim Todd, below right. And as a sportswriter with the Fitchburg Sentinel & Leominster Enterprise, I wrote about Todd and his Notre Dame Crusaders.

Within a few years, both Jim and I moved on. I took my talents to South Florida and a slot position with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Todd worked as head coach at Fitchburg State, and later as an assistant at Columbia University for his Notre Dame predecessor, Arthur “Buddy” Mahar.

Then, 30 years ago this week, I moved north to take a communications position with IBM in the Mid-Hudson Valley.

Marist connection
And shortly after arriving in New York, I bumped into Jim Todd at Marist College. Jim was an assistant at Marist, where he coached future NBA center Rik Smits and helped lead the Red Foxes to their first NCAA appearance.

Todd coached at Salem State in Mass. from 1987-96 and led the team to eight NCAA Division III NCAA tournament appearances. He then went to the NBA as assistant coach with the Bucks and Clippers. On Feb. 3, 2000, he succeeded Chris Ford as head coach of the Clippers.

Less than a month later, I went to a Knicks game at Madison Square. That afternoon the Knicks beat the Clippers and new head coach Jim Todd, whose team finished the season 4-33.

Todd later was an assistant with the Raptors, Hawks and Kings. And on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, Knicks coach Mike Woodson added Todd to his staff.

“Jim adds a lot of experience to our staff,” said Woodson. “We started together 16 years ago in Milwaukee, and then our paths didn’t cross for a long time. He went in one direction and I went in another, and we could never hook back up.

“Then when I had the opportunity to bring him to Atlanta, I jumped on it because of the fact that he has a great mind for the game. That’s why he’s here with me in New York. I’ve been pretty successful with Jim in terms of winning, and he brings a wealth of experience.”

The Knicks finished strong last year before losing to the Heat in the playoffs. And this year they’re off to one of the best starts in team history. The last two times the Knicks started a season 8-1, they went on to win the NBA Championship.


Wilt’s ‘Game of the Century’ set the standard


Name a great one. Babe Ruth. Ted Williams. Jim Brown. Tom Brady. Wayne Gretzky. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan.

The list goes on and on, but no athlete in the history of professional sports ever had a more dominant game — and a more dominant year — than Wilton Norman Chamberlain, playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961-62.

The crowning achievement of Chamberlain’s year (and his career) occurred on March 2, 1962, when Wilt scored 100 points against the New York Knickerbockers.

The ‘Game of the Century” was played before a half-empty arena with 4,124 in attendance in Hershey, Pa. The contest was not televised — in fact no footage of any kind exists.

Not a single New York sportswriter was there to write about it. There were only two photographers on hand, and one of them left after the first quarter. Veteran broadcaster Bill Campbell broadcast the game over WPHT radio in Philadelphia.

In addition to his 100 points, Wilt established single game records that still stand for field goal attempts (63), field goals made (36), and free throws made (28 on 32 attempts), mind-boggling for such a terrible foul shooter.

No NBA player has ever come close to approaching 100. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in 2006. David Robinson had 71 in 1994. Michael Jordan scored 69 in an overtime game. Pete Maravich once scored 68 against the Knicks.

Here are 10 interesting sidebars about Wilt Chamberlain and his incomparable 1961-62 ‘Season of the Century’:

1. 50.4 PPG: Chamberlain scored 4,029 points and averaged 50,4 points a game during the 1961-62 season, coming off a 44.8 scoring average the previous year. In the 50 years since, Michael Jordan’s 37.1 ppg in 1986-87 is the NBA high water mark.

2. Scoring Streaks:  In 1962, Wilt  scored more than 50 points 44 times, more than 60 a dozen times and more than 70 twice. In December of 1961, Chamberlain had five straight games of  50, including a then-record 78 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Later that December, he scored 50 or more seven times in a row. He had another streak of six straight 50+ games in January of 1962, topped by 73 against the Chicago Packers. Wilt scored 67, 65 and 61 in the games leading up to 100. And two nights after 100, Chamberlain torched the Knicks for 58 at Madison Square Garden.

3. Rebounds: Wilt averaged 25.6 rebounds per game that year, third best all-time behind his own best 27.2 in 1960-61 and 27.0 in his rookie year, 1959-60.

4. League Leader: Chamberlain led the NBA in at least 10 major categories in 1961-62, including minutes played, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, total rebounds, points, minutes per game, points per game and rebound per game.

5. Minute Man: Wilt played every minute of every Warriors game that year, and averaged more than 48 minutes per game (48.52), the only time that’s ever been done. In fact, the top seven seasons of minutes played all belong to Chamberlain, who never fouled out of an NBA game.

6. All-Star Game Record: He set new standards in the NBA All-Star game that year with 42 points and 24 rebounds. But Bob Pettit of the host St. Louis Hawks won the MVP as the West beat the East, 150-130.

7. Playoffs: Wilt’s Warriors finished second in the NBA East in 1961-62 with a 49-31 record, 11 games behind the Boston Celtics (60-20). Philadelphia beat the Syracuse Nationals 3-2 in the best-of-five first round, then lost to the eventual NBA champion Celtics in seven games, with the home team winning each time. Wilt outscored his Boston counterpart, Bill Russell, in all seven games, with a 42-point, 37-rebound effort in Game Two, and a 41-point, 34-rebound performance in Game 4. In the deciding Game 7, Chamberlain had 22 points and 21 rebounds, and tied the game in the last minute with a three-point play, but the Celtics’ Sam Jones hit the game-winner with two seconds remaining. Russell finished with 19 points and 22 rebounds

8. No MVP: Despite putting together the greatest statistical season in NBA (and arguably pro sports) history in 1961-62, Wilt Chamberlain did not with the MVP. That honor went to his rival, Bill Russell. Wilt did win four NBA MVP awards.

9. NBA Leader: Chamberlain won the NBA scoring title his first seven years in the league, beginning with his rookie year in 1959-60. He led the league in rebounds 11 times in 14 seasons, and even won the assist title in 1967-68. He won two NBA titles, with the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and the 1971-72 Lakers.

10. On the Record: The record books are heavy with Chamberlain’s accomplishments. In addition to what’s been outlined above, he holds the NBA record for most consecutive field goals (18), most rebounds in a game (55),  most games with 50+ points (118); most consecutive games with 40+ points (14) most consecutive games with 30+ points (65), most consecutive games with 20+ points (126), highest rookie scoring average (37.6 ppg) and highest field goal percentage in a season (.727).