By Chris Sheridan
One of the first big NBA playoff games I ever covered was the infamous "Charles Smith game," at Madison Square Garden, exactly 17 years ago today on June 2, 1993, when the Knicks forward missed four straight layup attempts in the final seconds of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and New York, after taking a 2-0 lead in the series, lost 97-94 to fall behind 3-2 in a series they eventually lost.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was a key member of that 60-win Knicks team and played in that game, in which New York had a 27-game home winning streak snapped. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was coaching the Chicago Bulls at the time, en route to his first three-peat.
Doc and I were recalling that game last week on an off day during the Eastern Conference finals when I asked him how many of the Knicks' missed free throws was he responsible for.
"None," Rivers replied, startled that I had remembered one of the long-forgotten details of that game, how the Knicks had gone to the free throw line 35 times and missed 15 of them (Rivers was 3-for-3).
One detail I had forgotten but was reminded of in Clifton Brown's New York Times game story: Rivers laid out Michael Jordan for a full minute with a knee-to-the-midsection offensive foul.
"And the thing of it was, I was the designated technical foul shooter for that team, and the Bulls had two techs called on them -- both while I was on the bench -- and we missed both," said Rivers, who was limited to 32 minutes in that game by coach Pat Riley. (Hat tip to Jonathan Supranowitz of the Knicks PR department for e-mailing over a grainy play-by-play photocopy, which shows John Starks and Patrick Ewing each missing an illegal defense technical free throw on the Knicks' first two offensive possessions after Rivers was subbed out for Greg Anthony early in the fourth quarter).