MIAMI – They brawled in 1997. Jeff Van Gundy clung to Alonzo Mourning’s leg in 1998. Allan Houston got a friendly bounce in 1999. Clarence Weatherspoon didn’t get one in 2000. Amare Stoudemire lost a fight with a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher in 2012.
Something always happens. And here we go again.
There are more storied rivalries in the NBA — Lakers-Celtics and 76ers-Celtics among them — but there is just something about a Heat vs. Knicks matchup that brings out something extra in Miami and New York. They’re about to meet in the NBA playoffs for the sixth time; Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series is Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s always good for the league,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, “when there’s a Heat-Knicks playoff series.”
This will be the first time that New York has home-court advantage in a playoff matchup against Miami. There are tons of reasons why the rivalry is the rivalry, but the biggest reason is Pat Riley.
He quit coaching the Knicks after the 1994-95 season — famously by fax — with a year left on his contract. A few weeks later, Riley and Heat managing general partner Micky Arison met in New England and began hammering out the deal to bring him to Miami. They shook hands, the Heat eventually got Riley out of his Knicks contract for $1 million and a first-round draft pick, and the New York-Miami rivalry in basketball was born.
The Heat ousted the Knicks in 1997. The Knicks returned the favor and then some by ending Miami’s season in 1998, 1999 and 2000. And in 2012, the Heat coasted past New York on the way to the NBA title.
A look back:
1997: HEAT 4, KNICKS 3
The Heat were down 3-1 and refused to go out without a fight. Literally.
The whole series changed when New York’s Charlie Ward and Miami’s P.J. Brown got tangled under a basket during Game 5. Ward got flipped over, while four Knicks — Allan Houston, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and John Starks — all were suspended for leaving the Knicks’ bench to join the fight.
Ward and Brown were suspended, as were Houston, Ewing, Johnson and Starks. Johnson and Starks had to miss Game 7; the other Knicks missed Game 6, and Brown missed both games for Miami.
Facing elimination, the Heat won the last three games, including one at Madison Square Garden, becoming just the sixth team in NBA history to erase a 3-1 deficit.
1998: KNICKS 3, HEAT 2
Miami had a chance to close out New York in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden, a game best remembered by a fight between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson — one where New York coach Jeff Van Gundy tried pulling Mourning away by grabbing onto his leg.
Patrick Ewing was suspended for Game 5, as were Mourning and Johnson, who was ruled out of the deciding Heat-Knicks game for the second straight year by the NBA.
Allan Houston scored 30 points, and the Knicks rolled to a 98-81 win in the deciding game.
1999: KNICKS 3, HEAT 2
Miami got to this year’s series against the Knicks by beating top-seeded Milwaukee. So now, the Heat have gotten a taste of the joy New York had 24 years ago when it beat the top seed that season — Miami.
The Heat won an elimination game in New York to force a winner-take-all Game 5 in Miami. Allan Houston’s 15-footer hit the front of the rim, hit the backboard and then dropped with 0.8 seconds left for a 78-77 win that gave New York the series.
2000: KNICKS 4, HEAT 3
Miami wasted double-digit leads in Games 6 and 7. Patrick Ewing’s dunk with 1:20 left in Game 7 gave New York an 83-82 lead — and neither team scored again.
Clarence Weatherspoon had a chance to give Miami the lead on a jumper with less than 10 seconds left, almost from the same spot where Houston connected to win the 1999 series, but it hit the back of the rim and bounced away.
2012: HEAT 4, KNICKS 1
Miami’s LeBron James and New York’s Carmelo Anthony each scored 139 points in the five-game series, one star canceling the other out on the scoresheet.
The rest of the series all went Miami’s way. Amare Stoudemire badly cut his left hand on the glass-and-metal case that was holding a fire extinguisher by the Knicks' locker room in Game 2, and the Heat outscored the Knicks by 70 points in the series.