Best NBA performances of all time at Madison Square Garden originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Madison Square Garden has played host to history across hockey, boxing and even pop culture. However, when it comes to a signature sport at MSG, basketball is synonymous with the venue.
“The World’s Most Famous Arena” was the site of more history on Tuesday. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors broke Ray Allen's NBA 3-pointer record, sinking No. 2,974 in the first quarter against the New York Knicks at the Garden. Curry came into the night needing just two 3s to take over as the NBA’s undisputed shooting king and didn't waste much time, needing just 7:32 to nail two 3-pointers.
Between the Knicks, legendary NBA foes and Curry himself, some of the greatest moments in basketball history have taken place at Madison Square Garden. With a record-breaking moment likely on Tuesday, here’s a look at 10 of the best basketball performances and plays in MSG history.
May 8, 1970: Knicks win first NBA title behind Willis Reed
You would hardly call Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals “The Willis Reed Game” based on the box score. However, even with just four points on the night, it was Reed who inspired the Knicks on their way to their first NBA championship.
Reed suffered a torn muscle in Game 5 and sat out Game 6 as the Los Angeles Lakers forced a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden. He provided the Knicks an emotional jolt in the deciding game, with the MSG crowd going crazy even when he stepped onto the floor for warmups. That inspiration and energy carried into the game, as Reed made two shots and grabbed three rebounds in 27 minutes.
Reed was not alone in carrying the Knicks to the title. Walt Frazier went off for 36 points and 19 assists, while the Knicks’ three other starters each chipped in 17-plus points.
The game marks the only time the Knicks have clinched an NBA Finals on their home floor. The team won the 1973 Finals at the Forum in Los Angeles and has yet to earn a championship since.
May 25, 1993: John Starks dunks all over Michael Jordan, Bulls
In 1991, it was Michael Jordan who dunked all over the Knicks. In 1993, John Starks returned the favor.
The Knicks were up 91-88 in the final minute of Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Bulls. Starks took the ball up the court, dribbled hard to the rim and skied above Jordan and Horace Grant for an iconic poster slam. The play nearly blew the roof off the Garden as the Knicks won the game.
Starks’ dunk still resonates in Knicks history despite the Bulls winning four straight games to take the series.
June 5, 1994: Patrick Ewing powers Knicks to Game 7 win over Pacers
Patrick Ewing put together one of the signature games of his career in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Knicks and Indiana Pacers had a heated rivalry during the 1990s, one that involved playoff series, fights and choke signs. The two teams had met in the first round of the playoffs a year earlier with the Knicks prevailing in four games. In 1994, they met once again with an NBA Finals spot on the line.
New York won the first two games of the series at home before Indiana rattled off three straight wins. Starks led the Knicks to a Game 6 win on the road to send the series to a winner-take-all game at Madison Square Garden.
Ewing was a force throughout Game 7, ending with 24 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists. The Knicks won by a score of 94-90 and advanced to their first Finals in 21 years.
The game ended a terrific series, but it was still far from the end for the Knicks-Pacers rivalry.
March 28, 1995: Michael Jordan’s “double-nickel”
“Five” was the number of the day for Michael Jordan on March 28, 1995.
It was Jordan’s fifth game back from his retirement. Though he did not look quite like himself in the first four games, a dominant scoring night against the Knicks at the Garden proved Jordan was still the top dog in the NBA.
Jordan dropped a “double-nickel” on the Knicks, scoring 55 points on 21-for-37 shooting to go along with four rebounds and two assists. One of those two dimes went to Bill Wennington for the game-winning dunk, Wennington’s only make of the night.
Though the Bulls did not win the ‘95 title, Jordan’s “double-nickel” was the first ominous sign for the NBA that he was truly “back.”
May 7, 1995: Reggie Miller scores eight points in nine seconds
Two words: Miller Time.
The Knicks and Pacers met in the playoffs for the third straight time in 1995. During Game 1, it was Reggie Miller who pulled off the impossible to kick off one of the best second-round series in NBA playoff history.
Down 105-99 with 18.7 seconds left in Game 1 at the Garden, Miller sank a 3 to pull the Pacers within three. He stole the ensuing inbounds pass, dribbled back outside the arc and hit another 3 to tie the game before Starks was fouled with 13.2 on the clock. Starks missed both free throws, but Ewing pulled down the offensive board before missing a jumper from inside the paint. Miller was fouled after securing the rebound and hit both free throws to ice the game.
The Pacers took a 3-1 series lead, but the Knicks won Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7 at MSG. Miller scored a team-high 29 points in that contest to send the Pacers to the ‘95 Finals.
June 5, 1999: Larry Johnson hits four-point play
After splitting the first two games in Indiana, Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals between the Knicks and Pacers came down to the wire with Larry Johnson saving the day.
The Knicks were down three points with under 10 seconds remaining. Johnson hoisted up a 3-ball as he was bumped by Indiana’ Antonio Johnson, the ball went in and the MSG crowd went ballistic. Johnson sank the free throw as the Knicks held on for the Game 3 win and later advanced to the 1999 NBA Finals.
While the Knicks lost in the Finals, the four-point play remains a signature Knicks playoff shot and one of the loudest moments in MSG history.
March 12-13, 2009: Syracuse beats UConn in six-overtime thriller
Stepping aside from the NBA, the Big East Tournament is a major staple for Madison Square Garden.
Perhaps the most famous battle in tournament history was not even a championship game. Instead, it was a marathon between UConn and Syracuse that stretched six overtimes. Syracuse did not have a lead in any of the first five overtimes, but an Andy Rautins 3-pointer to start the sixth OT propelled the Orange to a historic quarterfinal victory.
The game produced several remarkable score lines, especially for ‘Cuse point guard Jonny Flynn. The sophomore played 67 of the game’s 70 minutes, adding 34 points and 11 assists. Syracuse’s Paul Harris also had a remarkable double-double with 29 points and 22 rebounds in 56 minutes, while teammate Eric Devendorf chipped in 22 points.
UConn made up for the defeat two years later, as Kemba Walker hit an unforgettable, step-back game-winner against top-seeded Pitt. The Huskies went on to win the Big East tournament and national title in 2011.
Feb. 10, 2012: Linsanity arrives at Madison Square Garden
Jeremy Lin’s remarkable stretch during the 2011-12 season featured a handful of signature moments, but his best game came at MSG.
“Linsanity” began three games earlier with Knicks home against the New Jersey Nets. He scored 25 points in that contest and followed it up with a 28-point outing against the Utah Jazz two nights later. He helped lead the team to a win against the Washington Wizards on the road before returning to MSG for a showdown against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Even with Kobe on the court, Lin was the star of the Garden. He set a career-high with 38 points, outdueling Bryant and his 34 points en route to a 92-85 victory.
Linsanity was ultimately a short-lived era in Madison Square Garden history, but it still is one of the most sensational Knicks runs of the 21st century.
Feb. 27, 2013: Steph Curry splashes 11 3-pointers, tallies 54 points at MSG
While Curry’s fame dates back to Davidson and even his childhood as Dell Curry’s son, his unofficial NBA arrival came at MSG back in 2013.
The 2012-13 season was his fourth in the NBA, but the Warriors had yet to achieve the playoff success they are known for today. The 2013 Warriors-Knicks game was a sign of things to come for both Curry and Golden State.
Curry became just the fifth player in MSG history to hit at least nine 3-pointers, ending the night with 11 triples and 54 points. The Knicks wound up with a 109-105 win, but the performance is still one of the most famous in Curry’s illustrious career.
Jan. 24, 2014: Carmelo Anthony breaks Knicks, MSG scoring records
Carmelo Anthony doubled-down on records with a monster night against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2014.
His 62 points stand as the single-game record for a Knick and the single-game NBA record for MSG. He went 23-for-35 from the floor, 6-for-11 from 3 and a perfect 10-for-10 on free throws. Fifty-six of his 62 points came in the first three quarters and he was pulled from the game with 7:22 remaining in the 125-96 blowout.
For the cherry on top, Melo ended the night with zero assists, marking just the second time in NBA history a player has posted 62 points and no assists in a game.
The other player to do that? That would be Bryant, who held the MSG scoring record for five years thanks to his 61-point outing on Feb. 2, 2009. Only James Harden (Jan. 23, 2019) has matched that scoring output for a Knicks opponent at the Garden.