The New York Knicks face off against the Philadelphia 76ers this year on Christmas Day. In honor of today’s throwdown, we take a look back at the best Christmas Day games in Knicks’ history.
Santa Claus has come. Christmas Day has arrived and we get to watch our beloved Knicks face off against the Philadelphia 76ers at 12 p.m. ET. If all participants are healthy, this game has the chance to be one of the most exciting games on the NBA’s holiday slate. Kristaps Porzingis vs. Joel Embiid is the matchup that has every NBA fan drooling.
No team in NBA history has played more Christmas Day games (51) than the Knicks, who also lead the way in wins (22) and losses (29). Of those 51 Christmas Day matchups, 41 have been played at Madison Square Garden.
Will this year’s game be good enough to crack the top five? We’ll find out soon enough. Until then, though, here’s a look at the best Christmas Day games in Knicks’ history.
5. 2011 vs. Boston Celtics
This was a really weird one for the NBA as a whole. Christmas Day 2011 was actually Opening Night for the New York Knicks after a 161-day lockout.
Facing the Boston Celtics, who owned the NBA from 2008-2012 with the quartet of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, the Knicks weren’t expected to have a chance, even with Pierce sidelined with a heel injury.
But Anthony and the Knicks battled their way to a 106-104 victory. He finished the game with 37 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. Melo scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, which the Knicks dominated, outscoring the Celtics 27-to-17.
4. 1961 vs. Philadelphia Warriors
The Knicks took Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia Warriors into double overtime on Christmas Day 1961, with the Knicks pulling out the one-point victory, 136-135. The 136 points that the Knicks scored remains a Christmas Day franchise record.
What was even more amazing were the numbers put up in the game by Richie Guerin and Willie Naulls for the Knicks and Wilt Chamberlain for the Warriors. Guerin and Naulls combined for 73 points, 23 rebounds, and 11 assists as they powered the Knicks over the dominant Chamberlain. Johnny Green was impressive in his own right, with 16 points and 24 boards. But Wilt was his usual dominant self, dropping 59 points and grabbing 36 rebounds. He’d finish the season averaging 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game.
3. 1984 vs. New Jersey Nets
The Knicks dropped this one in 1984 to the New Jersey Nets, 120-114. However, this game was all about Bernard King as he made history in more than one way.
King finished the game with a then-franchise-record 60 points, a record that would stand for 30 years until Carmelo Anthony broke it in 2014 when he dropped 62 on the Charlotte Hornets. His 60 points remain a Christmas Day-record, however.
What was even more phenomenal was how well King shot to reach the 60-point mark. He made 22-of-26 free throw attempts and shot 63 percent (19-of-30) from the floor. He didn’t take a single three-point attempt. This remains one of the best individual performances in Knicks’ history.
2. 1986 vs. Chicago Bulls
This game was the Patrick Ewing show. His guests, on Christmas Day 1986, were Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden.
While Jordan would lead the NBA in scoring with 37.1 points per game—and scored 30 points to go along with six steals, five assists, three rebounds and two blocks on the day—it wasn’t enough to stop the Knicks.
Ewing led the Knicks to the win in a low-scoring affair, 86-84, finishing with 28 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks, and one assist. None of his points were bigger than the two he scored with time expiring. Trent Tucker’s three-pointer with four seconds on the clock missed the mark, Ewing grabbed the rebound and put up a fade-away floater for the win.
1. 1985 vs. Boston Celtics
Taken first overall in the 1985 NBA Draft, Ewing did not wait long to make his mark in a Knicks uniform. Facing off against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics, Ewing helped the Knicks overcome a 25-point deficit en route to a 113-104, double-overtime victory.
The best big man in team history finished the game with 34 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.