Can you tell us about the playoff game against the Pistons when you had the dislocated fingers.
Going into that series the Detroit Pistons were favored to win. They had homecourt advantage and they had a player in Isiah Thomas that was an All-Star. We had a tremendous team, the foundation of our ball club, Angel, was defense. That's what we hung our hat on every night and that's partly why we were so successful.
We played a great series against those guys. Unfortunately, we lost one at home. We won the first game due to Darrell Walker and his efforts stealing the ball and containing Isaiah Thomas. So we won that game, lost the second, came home and won the third and lost the fourth. Then we're back in Joe Louis Arena for the deciding fifth game and at that point I'm averaging over 42 PPG in the previous four games.
Then in Game 5, Isiah catches fire during the last quarter. It was simply amazing. You never stand around and watch your opponent do something that's simply incredible. I never have. I looked at the film later and couldn't believe what I saw. I believe the numbers were something like 16 points in a matter of two minutes and some odd number of seconds.
I'm playing with dislocated fingers. Middle finger and ring finger taped together, on each hand, and I'm playing with the flu. We're playing in Joe Louis Arena, there was no air conditioning. We're in the huddle and Hubie's diagramming the play and the play is not for me.
I didn't understand that. I'm averaging 42 PPG, I'm an all-pro player, how could the ball not be put in my hands? That's what I'm thinking to myself. I never ever once in my life as an athlete on any level questioned the coach, whether it was city league, junior high school, high school, college, pro, I've never questioned the coach. It's my responsibility to play and let the coach, coach. But under those circumstances, the season's on the line, the game's on the line, I want the ball.
Even with a fever and two bad fingers?
I'm averaging over 42 points a game with two dislocated fingers, okay? I already had 40, so I want the ball. We play as a team but when there's a shot to be made, when the game's on the line, I want the shot. So I interrupted coach, I just simply said "coach," (remember this was the heat of the moment) I said "coach, do I have the right to take the ball myself?" He didn't answer, and I repeated "coach," just a little louder, "do I have the right to take the ball myself?" Because I didn't believe in breaking plays, if a coach designs a play you don't go out and break it. So, he said "yeah, fine." That's it.
So, we inbound the ball and someone starts to post up and I waved him out. So he goes out and now I'm left a single defender in Earl Cureton. I'll never forget what he said. This is the heat of the moment, their season's on the line, our season's on the line, both franchises want to win the game, there's millions of dollars involved, the fans want to win the game and Earl Cureton's defending me, you know what he says?
"Come on and bring it." That's like something you might here on the playground. "Come on and bring it." But at that moment, that's what he yelled at me "come on and bring it." I just simply spun to my left, took a power dribble, and pulled up to my "sweet spot" and made the shot.
How far do you see the Knicks going in the playoffs this year?
This is a tremendous team. They have a superstar in 'Melo that can take over a game, win a game all by himself. But the foundation of winning in the playoffs is predicated on defense. This club plays that very effectively, you saw it the other day against the Celtics. How they were able to shut down the Celtics in the fourth quarter, hold them to eight points, a total of 25 in the second half, Garnett gets two points in the second half, and Jeff Green was held to six in the second half. They've played great defense and consequently they're able to force steals. They had fifteen on Saturday.
I think this team is built for tremendous success in the playoffs. Mike Woodson has done a tremendous job with this ball club. I think when you look at all of the things that he's contended with as a coach this year in terms of injuries. He's been plugging holes all year.
This club can go awfully far but you know you have to take it one game at a time. You hear that from a lot of people but as an athlete you're one injury away sometimes from losing the next game.