Word on the Street

1994 Knicks/Rockets Finals (nin-teen’ nin’-tee-for niks-rahk’-its fi’-nuls) noun. An example of and comparison point for any low-scoring playoff series that is generally regarded as boring and possibly unwatchable.

Usage example:Watching the Cavaliers/Pistons series is almost as painful as the 1994 Knicks/Rockets Finals.

Word trivia: The 1994 NBA Finals was one of the most competitive championship series in league history. It featured a marquee matchup between two superstar centers (Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing) and a cast of other all-star-caliber players (Robert Horry, Sam Cassell, Mario Elie, Charles Oakley, Doc Rivers, Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman). It lasted the full seven games, and there wasn’t a single blowout; none of the games were decided by more than nine points, and Games 6 and 7 were decided by two and six points respectively. Olajuwon outplayed Ewing on offense (27 PPG on 50 percent shooting versus 19 PPG on 36 percent shooting), but Ewing was a defensive monster, setting an NBA Finals record with 30 blocked shots, including a record-tying eight blocks in Game 5. However, this series is poorly regarded by most NBA fans for the following reasons:

1. Star bust: It was the first NBA Finals of the first post-Jordan era, and the first final series since 1978-79 that didn’t feature Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and/or Michael Jordan. Due to the absence of an nationally recognized fan favorite, many casual fans were uninterested in the series and therefore neglected to watch it. The series was further marred by Ewing’s poor play, John Starks’ 2-for-18 shooting performance in Game 7, and the fact that Olajuwon – who was named Finals MVP – submitted a performance that was very good in its own right, but hardly among the all-time greats.

2. Defense wins championships…not ratings: The series revolved around defense and, for that reason, the scores were painfully low. In fact, neither team scored more than 93 points in a single game. The scores were as follows: Game 1 – 85-78; Game 2 – 91-83, Game 3 – 93-89; Game 4 – 91-82; Game 5 – 91-84; Game 6 – 86-84; Game 7 – 90-84. Game 6 was the only time a player scored as many as 30 points, when Olajuwon had exactly 30. It was basically a case of two teams walking the ball up the court, tossing it into the post, and four guys spotting up beyond the arc and waiting for the return pass while the centers beat the hell out of each other.

3. The juice was on the loose: The series had the misfortune of being played during the onset of the the O.J. Simpson murder case. During Game 5, NBC split coverage between the game and Simpson’s freeway chase with the LAPD. While the Knicks and Rockets were battling down to the wire, the national attention was focused elsewhere.

And so, despite the many rule changes that were instituted specifically to irradicate this kind of grind-it-out basketball, there are still one or two playoff series each year that are highly reminiscent of the ’94 Finals (most notably the 2005 Pistons/Spurs Finals, which nearly qualified as an historical recreation). And it’s then, like clockwork, that everybody harkens back to the series that defined the term “boring series.”

We know these guys were watching. But only because they had to.


Labels: Patrick Ewing / Hakeem Olajuwon / Robert Horry / Sam Cassell / Mario Elie / Charles Oakley / Doc Rivers / Derek Harper / Rolando Blackman / John Starks / Larry Bird / Michael Jordan / Magic Johnson / New York Knicks / Houston Rockets / Cleveland Cavaliers / Detroit Pistons / San Antonio Spurs / 1994 NBA Finals / 2005 NBA Finals / NBA Finals MVP / NBA Playoffs / NBA Finals / NBA / Word on the Street


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