Oakley, the former defensive executor of the Bulls and Knicks, watched the series “The Last Dance” which resumed on Sunday, focusing on the vicious Bulls-Knicks’ rivalry in the early 1990s.
Featured is their epic 1993 Eastern Conference finals series the Bulls won in six games after the Knicks took a 2-0 lead. Jordan averaged 32.2 points in the series, in which he was roasted for making a detour to Atlantic City to play after Game 1.
Oakley says he is still talking to Jordan, his former teammate, about the series. The former Knicks striker will not attribute it to Smith, who blew up all of those last-second setbacks in Game 5’s critical heartbreaker, which would have given the Knicks a 3-2 lead when trying to keep the Bulls from their first three-peat.
“Patrick, at the end of the game, he would be overtaken,” Oakley told the Post. “He would shoot the double team fadeaways and that hurt us as a team. “
“My thing with [Jordan] it’s “It’s not like you beat us 20”, “added Oakley. “Most of the games fell to two or three possessions. You all took photos. We did not do it. The best player won. Michael was a better player than Patrick hands down. “
Ewing averaged 25.8 points and 11.2 points and had 53% of the shots in six games in the series – all in line with his regular season numbers. Oakley averaged 8.7 points and 10.8 rebounds and shot 44% in the series, also close to its regular season numbers. In Game 5 of the series, Ewing had 33 points on 12 shots on 23 and nine rebounds while Oakley was limited to six points on 2 shots on 6 and four rebounds.
In the documentary, Ewing says, “It was extremely physical. It wasn’t really a mistake until you drew blood. “
Asked about the remark, Oakley sniffed, “A lot of the guys who speak now didn’t say that when they played basketball.”
Oakley, then in his defensive heyday, also believed that Phil Jackson had foiled then Knicks coach Pat Riley.
“Pat Riley never adapted to the situation,” said Oakley. “At halftime, we did the same thing. They trapped us in the middle of the court. We’ve never done anything like this to trap them and make them think about the game.
“We didn’t shoot and played in their hands. Defensively, they played an area and built a wall. They knew that Patrick was not going to retire from the double team. Phil has watched a lot of movies. We watched a lot of movies, but we played checkers and they played chess. “
During the broadcast, it was mentioned that the Knicks were similar in style to “The Bad Boys” from Detroit, who beat Jordan’s Bulls before finally breaking through.
“Everyone says Detroit was more physical,” said Oakley. “I do not think so. Detroit just played dirtier than we did. We didn’t play dirty basketball. “
Jeff Van Gundy, then Knicks assistant to Riley, told the Post that the 1993 team was the best team he had ever been on. The Knicks won 60 games that season and Riley told “Garden Glory” that the Knicks had made “a championship team”. “
That’s why Oakley is still frustrated that he didn’t choose the Knicks.
“We should have beaten them and we didn’t beat them,” said Oakley. “The Bulls have received a lot of calls. I tell Michael so far. The best player in the league will receive all calls when needed. But Michael did fire. It wasn’t like he came over the edge and soaked himself on us. He had a few dunks. But it was only two dunks he had in the half court offense.
“I took Michael’s ball in that streak and they called a foul and I didn’t even touch it,” added Oakley. “The only thing I didn’t like about Phil’s Bulls was that they complained about the officials, the physics. We were playing hard. If you complain about me, you are gentle.
“Phil Jackson always planted stories in the newspaper when he lost:” Look at the mistakes. “Pat Riley was a psychologist, but Phil was the doctor. They played mind games with each other. “
Jordan’s journey to Atlantic City after the Bulls’s loss in Game 1 turned into a firestorm. But ultimately, it motivated Jordan.
“When you’re away, you can do whatever you want,” said Oakley. “Danny Ainge said [he and Jordan] played 36-hole golf before a playoff game. I never thought he would do that, but he’s amazing. When things are going your way, you can take the risk of doing things. Lots of guys can’t do that. They don’t have this player. Patrick would never do it like that – because he doesn’t have it in him. “
Ewing finished fourth in the MVP vote in 1993, but in recent months Oakley has targeted the darts on “The Big Fella” as much as his late partner James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks. Oakley recently called Ewing “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever played with.” “
As for not having overthrown the Bulls in 1993, Oakley put it simply in his inimitable way.
“The Bulls had Michael and we had Patrick,” said Oakley. “It’s like seeing Beyoncé and going to see someone trying to be Beyoncé. If Beyoncé is in town, everyone will see Beyoncé. If Michael and Patrick are in town, everyone’s going to see Michael. They had “The Show”. We tried to stop them and we couldn’t stop them. “