Where does Game 2 rank among best comebacks in Knicks playoff history?

Two days after one of the greatest playoff comebacks in New York Knicks history, fans are still talking about the wild sequence that ended Monday’s Game 2 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs.

It seemed like the Knicks were on their way to a second straight win after building an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the 76ers rallied to take a five-point lead in the final minute. A raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden had been nearly silenced in what felt like the waning moments of yet another painful postseason loss for the franchise.

Then, the unthinkable happened:

With those timely threes by Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo and two free throws from OG Anunoby, New York scored nine unanswered points in the final 27 seconds – including six points in that unforgettable 14-second span – to steal Game 2 in stunning fashion and take a 2-0 series lead over the Sixers.

It also evoked memories of the most shocking postseason moments in franchise history. So we decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the Knicks’ best playoff comebacks – and where Monday’s Game 2 finish ranks among them:

Game 4 vs. Boston Celtics, Eastern Conference Finals (April 22, 1973)

Exactly 51 years to the day before Monday’s wild finish at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks engineered perhaps the greatest postseason comeback in franchise history.

This game often gets overlooked because it happened before the first season of available NBA play-by-play data (1996-97), but on paper, it’s hard to beat. New York trailed the Boston Celtics by as many as 17 points in the third quarter and faced a 16-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

That’s when Walt “Clyde” Frazier took over, finishing with 37 points and eventually tying the game with 17 seconds left before two ensuing overtime periods that ultimately favored the Knicks in a 117-110 thriller.

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New York went on to win the series in seven games and eventually beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1973 NBA Finals, winning their second (and most recent) championship.

Game 7 vs. Miami Heat, 1st round (May 16, 1999)

This isn’t the most famous game-winning shot of the Knicks’ run to the 1999 NBA Finals. But without this one, New York’s best playoff run in the last 30 years would have ended in the first round.

Entering this series, we had only ever seen one No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 seed since the NBA playoffs expanded in 1983-84. After the Knicks took Game 1 from the top-seeded Miami Heat, those two traded wins until the all-decisive Game 5.

It looked like the Heat might hang on, after all, as they led by seven in the fourth quarter and three points in the final minute. Yet two Patrick Ewing free throws and a turnover by Tim Hardaway set up Allan Houston for the defining shot of his 12-year NBA career:

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That shot capped off one of the biggest series upsets in NBA history and set the stage for New York’s most recent run to the NBA Finals.

Game 3 vs. Indiana Pacers, Eastern Conference Finals (June 5, 1999)

Less than three weeks after Houston’s iconic game-winner in Miami, teammate Larry Johnson added his own chapter to the Knicks’ storied postseason history with a go-ahead shot that was even more miraculous in nature.

After trailing the Indiana Pacers by eight with 3:15 to go in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, New York cut the deficit to one with 11 seconds left before former Knicks guard Mark Jackson hit two free throws to put his old team down by three.

Johnson nearly fumbled the ensuing tipped inbounds pass from Charlie Ward, but he eventually gathered, jabbed right, pump-faked and drove left with the seconds ticking down on Game 3.

Then, he hoisted a prayer that hung in the air endlessly before landing on Knicks highlight reels through the end of time:

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It wasn’t quite payback for Reggie Miller’s infamous “eight points in nine seconds” in 1995, but it did help New York outlast Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals to secure its fourth and most recent conference championship.

Game 6 vs. Miami Heat, 2nd round (May 19, 2000)

This one tends to get lost in the archives – in part because New York went on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals. But that doesn’t take away from the sheer brilliance of what is statistically the largest comeback in Knicks postseason history.

After Miami went on a 22-5 run in the second quarter, New York trailed by 18 points in a do-or-die spot in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Knicks eventually clawed back but still trailed by six points with 4:30 left.

That’s when the defending conference champions mounted a 12-4 run to close the game, with Chris Childs’ only two free throws tying it up with 1:31 left before Houston’s free throws with 17 seconds capped off a 72-70 win.

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The Knicks won another thriller in Game 7 to advance to the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, when they ultimately lost to the rival Pacers. They haven’t been back to that stage since.

Game 2 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 1st round (April 22, 2024)

There are so many compelling elements to this one: the stakes, the chaos, the hysteria to follow. The result is one of the memorable games (and finishes) in Knicks playoff history.

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This one was shaping up to be a classic well before the final minute, as Tyrese Maxey (35 points) and Joel Embiid (34) fueled a 19-6 run to flip an eight-point deficit with 7:43 left into a five-point lead with just 47 seconds to go.

By now, you surely know the rest: Brunson launches an off-balance three that gently bounces in; Maxey bobbles the inbounds pass before Josh Hart rips it away; and Isaiah Hartenstein flies into the paint to secure DiVincenzo’s first miss and keep the game alive.

With a second try, DiVincenzo delivered a dagger into the 76ers’ hearts and cemented his name in Knicks postseason lore:

Where does Game 2 rank among Knicks’ best playoff comebacks?

Regardless of how the rest of this series plays out, the chaos and jubilation of Monday’s win will forever enshrine it among the greatest comebacks in Knicks playoff history.

That said, we’ll likely need to wait a few weeks to know where, exactly, it fits in the hierarchy. If the 76ers come back to win this series, this will be remembered as a thrilling footnote in an otherwise disappointing series for the East’s No. 2 seed.

If New York does advance to the second round – and especially if it makes a surprise run to the NBA Finals – it’ll be hard not to put this finish right up there with the Houston and Johnson shots in 1999, or Frazier’s epic performance to catalyze the Knicks’ last title run in 1973.

Either way, “eight points in 14 seconds” will forever elicit memories of Monday’s epic comeback win, and Knicks fans will always remember where they were when DiVincenzo’s three sent Madison Square Garden into hysteria in one of the best wins in franchise history.

New York heads back to Philadelphia on Thursday for Game 3, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT from the Wells Fargo Center.

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