The 2023 playoffs are upon us, so to get pumped up, let’s look at some of the greatest performances in Knicks’ playoff-opener history.
While the Knicks’ 21st-century playoff record may not be overflowing with appearances, as a franchise, the ‘Bockers have played in 44 postseasons, including eight Finals appearances (don’t ask their record in those eight). With appearance number 45 commencing today, let’s take a look at the ten greatest playoff openers in Knicks’ history.
1. Bob McAdoo scores 41 in win against Cavs
The legendary Mac might not be best known for his time with the Knicks, but the three-time scoring champion holds the record for most points in a Round One, Game One in Knicks history. In 1978, McAdoo scored 41 points on 25 shots to go along with six boards and two blocks against… who else but the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Knicks swept the two-game series before being swept in turn by Dr. J and World B. Free’s 76ers.
2. Bernard King goes off for 40 against Nets
Bernard King remains perpetually underrated in conversations about the greatest Knicks of all time. He opened the 1983 playoffs with a monster 40-point performance in typical King fashion (midrange buckets and athletic takes to the rim), and led the Knicks past the Nets in a two-game round one before, coincidentally, the team was swept in the second round by Dr. J once again.
3. Willis Reed goes for 38 and 23 against Wilt’s 76ers
The Captain may have put up his absurd statline in a loss, but few could blame him as he went pound for pound with Wilt Chamberlain’s 37 points, 29 rebounds, and seven assists. The Knicks lost the series in six, but Reed got an all-time playoff performance out of it.
4. Carmelo scores 36 with 4 steals to beat Celtics
A game I’m sure everyone reading this remembers with fondness, Carmelo’s opening salvo in the 2013 playoffs set the tone for the Knicks to get over the hump and take down their rival Celtics in six games. Melo’s shot-making and defensive intensity was on full display in the greatest Round One, Game One performance for the Knicks in 30 years.
5. Bernard King scores 36 en route to a record-breaking round 1
The King is back! Bernard may have scored a, to his standard, middling 36 points in the Knicks’ one-point win over Isiah Thomas’ Pistons, but he was just getting started. He went on to score 40+ in his next four straight games and set a record at the time with his scoring. He averaged 42.6 points in the series while shooting 60% from the field. The Knicks took the Pistons down in five, and eventually fell to Larry Bird’s Celtics in seven, but not without some spectacular dramatics between him and Larry Legend.
6. Gerald Wilkins goes for 34, 6, and 4 against the Round Mound of Rebound
Facing off against Charles Barkley’s 76ers, Gerald Wilkins went nuclear, scoring 36 points on a variety of jumpers, cuts, and fastbreak opportunities, mostly fed by Mark Jackson’s slick passing. He capped off his monster night with the assist for Jackson’s dagger three to put the game away and move towards the eventual sweep.
7. Clyde goes for 31, 11, and 6 in OT loss
It wouldn’t be a playoff performance list without Clyde! Walt Frazier kicked things off in the 1972 playoffs with 31 points, 11 boards, and six rebounds in a hard-fought overtime game against the Baltimore Bullets that saw the Knicks eventually lose by three. When asked about the loss, Walt said, “We played a pretty good game, we’re still confident. We’ll beat them in New York.”
He was right. The Knicks won the series in six games.
8. Amar’e has 28 and 11 in brutal loss to Celtics
In another game I’m sure we all remember, Amar’e Stoudamire was a man on a mission to open the 2011 playoffs. He put up 28 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks as he tried to will the team to a win with Carmelo Anthony struggling against the Celtics defense. A questionable Melo charge, a blatant KG moving screen, and a Ray Allen dagger sealed this one for the bad guys. The Knicks ended up losing in four.
9. Patrick Ewing has 26 points and 4 blocks against 76ers
Wilkins may have stolen the show in this game (see above) but Patrick Ewing could not be accused of not doing his part. The two combined for 60 points in their takedown of Charles Barkley’s 76ers, with Ewing, as usual, dominating on both ends.
10. Carl Braun scores 26 in tight win against Washington Capitols
Look, we won’t lie to you. No one at this site was even in the ballpark of life when Carl Braun scored 26 points in a three-point win over Fred Scolari’s Washington Capitals to open up the 1950s playoffs. But we believe in casting a wide net, and someone needs to represent the early-day Knicks. And so, we close our list on the inimitable (we assume) Carl Braun. The Knicks won the two-game series and went all the way to the Eastern Division finals before falling to Dolph Schayes and the Syracuse Nationals.