The Los Angeles Clippers miraculous comeback in Game One of their first round series against Memphis Grizzlies (April 29) was historic and conjured recollections of a memorable Knick moment generations ago. Unfortunately, Knick fans need to resort to memories these days for any kind of favorable thoughts.
In a regular season game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the early '70's, the Knicks were down 18 points with six minutes remaining and scored the game's final 19 points to emerge victorious. Certainly, it didn't have nearly the impact or magnitude of the Clippers' comeback. The Knick miracle wasn't a playoff contest, and Los Angeles actually needed to negotiate through six more points to overcome their deficit.
The framework is similar though. First of all, how does a team continue to muddle through in the fourth quarter behind by that many points? How can there be any belief in a positive outcome after you've been embarrassed for most of the game? In order to mount that furious a rally, several factors have to be in play. The level of play of the team behind has to reach fever pitch, and the other team has to completely shut down.
In that memorable Knick game, it seemed that the Bucks withered under the sudden intensity of the fabled Knick defense. In the Clippers game, it appeared that the Grizzlies just stopped competing. Nick Young hit three three-pointers in under a minute, and there wasn't a Memphis soul in the vicinity. These were practice shots. Suddenly, Chris Paul was invigorated. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol disappeared.
The Grizzlies will likely still find a way to win this series. Perhaps they needed some humility. Perhaps the heads were a bit swelled. When Randolph has played over the last year or so, Memphis has enjoyed surprising success - maybe too much. This loss can be devastating or a resounding wake up call.
When the Knick deficit grew to 24, at 54-30 in Game One against the Miami Heat (April 28), it was only the second quarter. Yet there was no question such a comeback could only have occurred if the Heat actually left the building. What a contrast between the Knicks and Clippers and their own history.
Glenn Vallach has been a New York Knick fan since the days of Howie Komives and Walt Bellamy, when he regularly boarded the IRT Subway at 180th Street in the Bronx for a trip to the Garden to see his heroes. Since the last championship in 1973, he has alternately yearned and suffered, hoped and lamented...he's waited long enough.