BOSTON -- Doc Rivers often makes reference to his brief career with the Knicks, mainly because his time in New York was during one of the highest points in franchise history. Rivers tore his ACL early in the 1993-94 season and it essentially forced the Knicks to make a trade for Derek Harper.
Rivers still harbors frustration about the '94 season because he strongly feels he could have been the difference for the Knicks, though Harper was just as tough defensively and knocked down many big shots. It was the closest Rivers would get to winning a title as a player.
After Sunday's 92-86 win over the Lakers in Game 5 of this NBA Finals series, Rivers was asked about that Knicks team in '94, who were in a similar situation: leading 3-2 and having to finish off the series on the road.
"I thought about that the other day," Rivers said, "when John Starks called me and reminded me of that."
The Knicks lost Game 6 by a fingernail -- Hakeem Olajuwon's tip block of Stark's shot at the buzzer preserved Houston's win -- and then lost Game 7 by a pile of bricks that were the unfortunate result of an untimely slump by Starks (2-for-18).
So despite all that Boston has done so far in this series, with two wins out of three on their home court, and the fact that they only need one more win, Rivers knows it hardly guarantees anything. And he admitted that you have to look at Game 6 as a must-win.
"Yeah, you do," he said. "Bottom line is when they won Game 3, from that point on we felt every next game is a 'must' game. We've had the same, each game is Game 7. We said it in Game 4, we said it again today and we'll say it again. That's how we have to approach the game. We lost our wiggle room by losing that home game."
The Knicks did the same. It was Sam Cassell's coming out party that stole Game 3 at the Garden to give the Rockets a 2-1 advantage. The Knicks roared back with two wins to make it 3-2. One of those wins, in Game 5, was perhaps Patrick Ewing's greatest game as a Knick and it was overshadowed by a white Ford Bronco on a Los Angeles freeway.
When the series went back to Houston, the Knicks, like Rivers' Celtics, had momentum and needed just one win with two chances to get it.
"Yeah and we had opportunities, obviously," Rivers said. "You know, that's a bitter memory obviously for me. I was injured and sitting on the bench, you know, so it just felt like you couldn't help individually.
"You know, as a team we had a lot of great opportunities in that series, in Game 6 and 7, if you remember. But it just didn't happen. For me, obviously a learning experience. But I can't use that experience for the players on this team. Hell, half of them probably are too young to remember and half of them probably don't care."