In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
In one of the most agonizing losses in franchise history, the New York Knicks drop Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Chicago Bulls 97-94. The game would be the critical game of the series as the series was tied at two games apiece. The Knicks had a 27-game winning streak at home and had their chances, but Charles Smith was blocked four times in the final seconds at the basket.
The Chicago Bulls, coached by Phil Jackson, were in the middle of their dynasty, looking for their third straight NBA Championship. In 1992, the Bulls faced one of their most formidable foes when they needed seven games to oust the New York Knicks. The Bulls finished second to the Knicks overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 57-25, winning the Central Division. The Bulls cruised to the Eastern Conference Finals sweeping the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs.
After losing in the second round to the Bulls in 1992, the New York Knicks, coached by Pat Riley, came back stronger as they beefed up in the off-season, signing free agent Herb Williams, acquiring Tony Campbell from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rolando Blackman from the Dallas Mavericks and Doc Rivers, Bo Kimble and Charles Smith from the Los Angeles Clippers. The moves paid off as the Knicks had the best record in the Eastern Conference at 60-22. The Knicks fought off the pesky Indiana Pacers in four games in the playoffs and beat the Charlotte Hornets in five to reach their showdown with the Bills in the Eastern Conference Finals.
As the Knicks entered the Eastern Conference Finals, they had established a big-time home-court edge at Madison Square Garden, winning 25-straight. The Knicks made the most of that home-court edge, winning Game 1 by a score of 98-90. As the teams played at the Garden again in Game 2, Michael Jordan was at the center of gambling rumors as he traveled to Atlantic City. Angered by questions about his trip, Jordan had to deal with another loss as the Knicks won again 96-91. The big moment came in the final minute when John Starks posterized Jordan and Horace Grant on a monster dunk.
Back in Chicago, the Bulls sent a message in Game 3, winning 103-83 to get back in the series. Game 4 was about Michael Jordan taking over as he scored 54 points as Chicago evened the series with a 105-95 win at Chicago Stadium. With the series even at two games apiece, Game 5 became a de facto Game 7 as the Bulls had the momentum while the Knicks had their 27-game winning streak at home. The game was a battle throughout as Patrick Ewing led all scorers with 33 points, Michael Jordan had 29 points, and Scottie Pippen had 28. With just over a minute left, the Bulls got the lead with a big three from B.J. Anderson, but in the final second, the Knicks had a chance to get the lead back, trailing 95-94. The ball was in the hands of Charles Smith at the rim, but four times in the last ten seconds, Smith was blocked by Horace Grant, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen. After the final block, Jordan got control of the ball and sent Armstrong down the floor for a layup at the buzzer to make the final score 97-94.
The Bulls would win the series in six games, taking Game 6 at Chicago Stadium 96-88 to reach the NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls would become the first team to win three straight championships since the Celtics dynasty, beating the Phoenix Suns in six games. Though the series did not go seven, it can be argued that the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals was the closest anyone came to beating the Bulls in any of their championship years.