We’ve heard NBA players say how different playoff basketball is from your typical regular season game. There’s a lot more at stake in the postseason, not to mention it’s exponentially more difficult. New York Knicks icon Allan Houston recalled their controversial 1997 Playoff series with the Miami Heat. They were just one win away from advancing when things took a sudden turn.
PJ Brown vs. Chris Childs
The Knicks entered Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semis up 3-1. They needed just one more win to secure their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. Then, all hell broke loose between PJ Brown and Chris Childs. Specifically, Brown flipped Childs into the cameramen along the sidelines. A brawl ensued and suspensions were handed down. Houston looked back on how the league treated the situation, seemingly in favor of the Heat.
“That fight’s been talked about to death at this point, but what still bugs me all these years later has absolutely nothing to do with the fight itself. What I still think about is that league’s decision to suspend five — FIVE! — of our best players for one game apiece over the last two games of a series that we were about to win,” Houston wrote in The Players’ Tribune.
“It was Patrick, Charlie, and me out for Game 6, and then, when the three of us were able to come back for Game 7, John Starks and LJ had to sit out.”
What made it even worse is that while the NBA suspended five Knicks players, only Brown got suspended from the Heat's side.
Houston added that he wasn’t too surprised that a fight broke out. The Knicks and Heat hated each other’s guts. Not just the players, but the respective coaches — Jeff Van Gundy and Pat Riley- also had an interesting past.
Van Gundy was actually an assistant under Riley when they were in New York. And so it was a tense chess match every time they played against each other.
After the brawl, the Heat were able to snatch a victory, keeping the series alive. For the Knicks, it would’ve been as simple as calming themselves down. They already knew how to beat Riley’s Heat squad.
But as Houston pointed out, several of their key players were suspended in Games 6 and 7. Only Brown sat out for the Heat. The Heat went on to win the series to face Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls went on to win the title. From the looks of it, neither the Heat nor the Knicks had a chance against Jordan. But Houston did not even discuss that part. All he wished was that the league should have looked into the matter critically and fairly.