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Isola: Warriors could face same fate vs. Knicks as ’96 Bulls | One Herald
Home / Sports / Isola: Warriors could face same fate vs. Knicks as ’96 Bulls

Isola: Warriors could face same fate vs. Knicks as ’96 Bulls

Frank Isola

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Updated: Saturday, January 30, 2016, 9:40 PM

Patrick Ewing finishes with 26 points and 14 rebounds in a 104-72 victory over the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.Torrie, Keith

Patrick Ewing finishes with 26 points and 14 rebounds in a 104-72 victory over the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

Michael Jordan was in the building, and Prince, who at the time was being called “the artist formerly known as,” was seated courtside and dressed in all white.

These are the type of nights that make Madison Square Garden special: the Knicks vs. a team chasing history and led by a once-in-a-generation player.

“There was definitely a mystique about that Chicago team,” says Derek Harper.

It has been nearly 20 years since the Knicks defeated the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, who despite that hiccup would go on to win an NBA record 72 games.

The 104-72 beatdown on March 10, 1996, was just Chicago’s seventh loss against 54 wins. The Knicks, who despite firing Don Nelson and promoting Jeff Van Gundy to interim head coach two days earlier, were 36-25.

“There was great respect for those teams,” Van Gundy said on Saturday. “It’s not like that was the first great Bulls team we ever saw. They had been good for so long. That wasn’t new. Our guys had great belief. We had great respect but great belief. That’s what the Knicks need against Golden State.”

On Sunday, a new generation of Knicks players gets a chance at a season-defining win against a team threatening to surpass 72 wins. The Warriors, who are 43-4 after winning in Philadelphia on Saturday, have lost road games to Milwaukee, Dallas, Denver and Detroit. Both the Bucks and Nuggets have losing records. So this is far from impossible for a Knicks team featuring Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

But Golden State, led by three All Stars — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — is also capable of humiliating a team and crushing its spirit. Earlier this month, the Warriors defeated Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio by an average of 31 points over a seven-day span.

“They are making the whole league look bad,” Charles Oakley said on Saturday. “It’s incredible what they’re doing. And even in a back-to-back, Golden State seems to play better in the second game.”

There was no slowing down Michael Jordan though, who still finished that game with 32 points. Torrie, Keith

There was no slowing down Michael Jordan though, who still finished that game with 32 points.

Enlarge John Starks was one of many competitors the Knicks had that could slow down the 72-10 Bulls. Torrie, Keith

John Starks was one of many competitors the Knicks had that could slow down the 72-10 Bulls.

Enlarge

Michael Jordan (l.) scores 32 points that game but tough competitors like John Starks (r.) help Knicks find a way to deliver a 104-72 beat down.

“They are freakish good,” Harper added. “They beat you in so many different ways. Steph had an off night against (Dallas) and Klay scored 45 the other night.”

Oakley recalled that when former Warriors coach Mark Jackson had called Curry and Thompson the greatest shooting backcourt of all time most in the league rolled their eyes.

“I guess if you haven’t won a ring your opinion doesn’t matter,” Oakley said sarcastically. “Mark was right. Look at those guys. Of course, the one good thing for Golden State is that teams don’t play defense anymore.”

Van Gundy, Oakley and Harper all said it is difficult to compare Phil Jackson’s record-breaking team to these Warriors, whose coach Steve Kerr was a reserve on the 72-win Bulls.

“Chicago has the record right now but Steph and those guys have the potential to win 72,” Harper said. “I think where it’s different is that the league is not as good as it was.”

Van Gundy added that rule changes make it impossible to determine which team is better, although he did make sure to mention that you were allowed to be physical against Jordan and he still averaged 30.

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Oakley, not surprisingly, is more direct.

Steph Curry and the Warriors are playing with plenty of swagger as they gun for the Bulls' 72-10 mark. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Steph Curry and the Warriors are playing with plenty of swagger as they gun for the Bulls’ 72-10 mark. 

“I think the Bulls would be too big for them,” he said. “They’d find a way to slow Curry down. They’d put Scottie (Pippen) on him and Ron Harper on him. Like a boxing ring, they’re not going to let you dance around. I’m going to cut you off. Let’s face it, Kerr can coach that team blindfolded.”

Oakley likes the Knicks chances because he sees a “toughness” about Derek Fisher’s team, saying “they’re fighting to get it right.” Oakley played with Dell Curry in Toronto and remembers a young Steph Curry always working on his shooting. Curry is a huge challenge for the Knicks but not quite on the level of Jordan.

“Those games were always a battle,” Oakley said. “It was like Giants-Dallas and Giants-Philly. Me and Mike kid around all the time. He says ‘we killed you guys.’ I’m like ‘Mike, you might have beaten us but you never killed us. And you got all the calls. When we started the game we were already down five points because you have the refs and the commissioner in your back pocket.’”

On that late March afternoon nearly 20 years ago, Jordan was a force. He scored a game-high 32 points and attempted seven free throws compared to eight for the Knicks.

Van Gundy was a rookie head coach about to embark on a bitter rivalry with Jackson. Oakley was injured and unavailable to play. He was replaced in the starting lineup by J.R. Reid. Patrick Ewing delivered a typically dominant performance, scoring 26 points with 14 rebounds while Harper scored 16 of his 23 points during the decisive third quarter.

“The players were not in awe of the greatness they were facing,” Van Gundy. “Lost in all the talk about the Bulls is that we had great competitors: Ewing, Harper, Oakley, (Anthony) Mason, (John) Starks, (Charlie) Ward. Who wouldn’t take your chances with those competitors in a home game?

“And it doesn’t diminish the incredible accomplishment by the Bulls. I mean, 72-10 …wow.” 


Daily News – Sports

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