Great Moments in Knicks History: LJ Nails The 4-Point Play
By Ben Horney, Knicks fan since '94
There was a gasp in the Garden as Jalen Rose tipped Charlie Ward’s attempted inbounds pass, but Larry Johnson secured the loose ball and turned to face his defender, Antonio Davis. Down, 91-88, with just 11.9 seconds to go in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Johnson sized Davis up for three long seconds before deciding to make his move. He pump-faked and Davis bit, leaping to contest the shot. Johnson took one dribble left, absorbed contact from Davis, and launched a three-pointer. In the span of less than one second, the whistle blew, the shot swished, and the Garden erupted.
Johnson completed the 4-point play by calmly sinking the free throw, the Pacers missed a shot at the buzzer, and the Knicks took a 2-1 lead in the series. Johnson had cemented himself as a Knick for life.
“I had shooting on my brain from the start I got it,” Johnson would say two years ago, while explaining that the play was originally designed for Allan Houston to take the final shot. “I was going to be the hero or I was going to be the villain. But I was going to shoot that ball."
And while that is the moment that will live forever in Knicks history, it was just one shot within one of Johnson’s finest games as a Knick. He finished with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, and added eight rebounds to lead a Knicks squad that was playing without the injured Patrick Ewing, who was out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles just days earlier. Marcus Camby also helped make up for the absence of Ewing, with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks off the bench, earning some high praise from Larry Bird, who was the head coach of the Pacers at the time.
“Marcus was the best player out there,” Larry Bird said after the game.
The Knicks would go on to win the series in six games, setting up a NBA Finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, where they lost in five, unable to overcome the Spurs Twin Towers (David Robinson and Tim Duncan) without Ewing. That was the first Finals appearance for Duncan, who is currently preparing to tip off this year’s finals against the Miami Heat, tonight, June 5 – almost exactly 15 years to the day that Johnson launched his way into Knicks lore with a legendary 4-point play.