New York Knicks: What If 1997 Team Played Chicago Bulls in NBA Playoffs?

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New York Knicks: What If 1997 Team Played Chicago Bulls in NBA Playoffs?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Depending on one's opinion, either the 1993 or 1997 New York Knicks lay claim to being the best version of the Blue and Orange to never make the NBA Finals.

The 1993 New York Knicks were a 60-win team that couldn't overcome Michael Jordan's heroics and a block party on Charles Smith in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 1997 Knicks were close to meeting the Bulls in a long-awaiting rematch, but when Miami Heat forward P.J. Brown flipped New York Knicks point guard Charlie Ward head over heels in the midst of a chippy Game 5 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals, those dreams slowly began to die.

Charlie Ward (who, let's admit, wasn't totally innocent because of his low boxout on Brown following a Tim Hardaway free throw), Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston were suspended for Game 6, the latter two for leaving the bench. Larry Johnson and John Starks received the same bench penalties as Ewing and Houston, but sat out Game 7 instead.

Losing four starters and the backup point guard was the death blow. The Knicks led the series 3-2 going back home for Game 6, but despite winning in the fourth quarter, could not seal the game, losing 95-90. A few days later, Tim Hardaway's 38 points led the Heat to a 101-90 win and series win.

It certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility to think that the Knicks win Game 6 at home with Hall of Fame Patrick Ewing and the team's second-leading scorer in Allan Houston playing, leading to a rematch with the vaunted Bulls, who had knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs five times in eight seasons.

What if the Charlie Ward-P.J. Brown fight never happens, and the Knicks finish the Heat in six? Would they have been on their way to a Finals matchup with the Utah Jazz, or was a series win against the Heat only going to lead to more disappointment against Michael Jordan?

It's an honest question to ask. The Knicks won two of four games against the Chicago Bulls during the regular season and lost the other two by a combined six points. Furthermore, this Knicks team was light-years ahead of the 1996 version, which was four points away from tying the Eastern Conference Semifinals at two against the 72-win Bulls.

So, how would it go down?

Note: Stats and box scores from Basketball Reference.

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