It’s the narrative that will drive the initial discussion as the Miami Heat head into their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the New York Knicks. a series that opens Sunday at 1 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
But the reality of the rivalry is that the last time the teams met in a meaningful, competitive postseason game, Bam Adebayo wasn’t yet 3 years old, Gabe Vincent wasn’t yet 4 years old, Jimmy Butler was 10 years old, and even the wisecracking Kyle Lowry he was only 14 years old. .
It was an epic 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal that went seven games and went to the Knicks, with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway as the Heat’s main protagonists. To put the elapsed time into further perspective, Mourning is now 53, Hardaway 56.
Yes, the teams back then also met in the first round in 2012, but that was a series the Heat dominated 4-1 behind their Big Three core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh , a series so different from the previous Heat-Knicks. the era where streamers were thrown from the ceiling of the Garden when the Knicks won Game 4 to avoid a sweep.
So for all the decades-old drama of Mourning trying to unseat then-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, to PJ Brown spinning Charlie Ward like a top, to Allan Houston which creates instant pain for the Heat, right down to Pat Riley coaching the Heat against him. former team, the consensus of the current Heat is to keep it in the current moment.
“I think that’s going to be the fun part, is we’re going to be in that atmosphere,” Lowry said of playing in the Garden. “We understand the rivalry they had back then. It’s not the same.
“But I think this franchise and organization, with the opportunity to go back and forth and play in New York and Miami, and Pat’s history with Pat. [Ewing]all that stuff, it’s going to be cool.”
All while keeping the focus on these Knicks and this moment.
“Honestly, you’re asking the wrong person,” forward Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t care where we play. We just have to beat them four times. I understand trying to hype it up, but we’re going to go out there and compete, we’ve got to be the better group, we’re going to be together for better or for worse.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing in Miami or playing in the Garden or Rucker Park.”
That doesn’t mean Butler’s history of feuds, heightened hype against his former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau will be put aside.
“It’s always good for the league,” Heat coach Spoelstra said, “when there’s a Heat-Knicks playoff series.”