Strange But True: The Rally

From the time the Milwaukee Bucks became a new NBA team in 1968-69, the New York Knicks always seemed to be able to beat them. Even when the Bucks signed Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), nothing seemed to work for them. Although the big center had made the Bucks a winning basketball team, he wasn’t enough to beat the Knicks. In the 1970 playoffs, the Knicks eliminated the Bucks by winning four games out of five. In the 1970-71 regular-season schedule, again the Knicks beat Milwaukee four out of five.

In 1972 it seemed that Milwaukee had broken the jinx against the Knicks. Wilis Reed, the New York center, had bad legs. Alcindor could operate fairly much as he pleased. And on November 18, 1972, the Bucks were all set to face New York on the Knick’s own home court.

With just under six minutes left to play, Milwaukee was ahead 86-68. With the Knicks down by 18 points, even the huge crowd of Knick fans was ready to accept defeat. But the Knicks weren’t.

Knick guard Earl Monroe scored a lay-up. In the next few minutes, the Bucks missed their shots and had the ball stolen from them while the New York guards, Monroe and Walt Frazier, scored nine straight points. Then big Dave DeBusschere hit on a long jumper to make the score 86-79. The Knicks were only seven down.

Milwaukee desperately began taking shots, but nothing seemed to work. Monroe and Frazier kept whittling down the lead, and with 47 seconds left, the Knicks were behind by only a single point.

Lucius Allen of Milwaukee had a chance to help the Bucks along when he was fouled. He missed two straight free throws. Walt Frazier grabbed the rebound and singed a fast pass to Monroe, who scored. Now the Knicks were ahead. The crowd in Madison Square Garden was screaming itself hoarse.

The Knicks got the ball back with 26 seconds left on the clock. They dribbled around, not even taking a shot when they had a chance. Milwaukee got the ball out of bounds with 2 seconds left. But the last-ditch try by Alcindor fell short. The Kincks won, 87-86.

Rallies have won games for many teams, but this one was spectacular. In the last 5 minutes 50 seconds, the Milwaukee Bucks did not score a single point, and the Knicks scored 19, exactly the number they needed to win the game.

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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1 Comment

  1. I always hated the story for two reasons:

    1. I was never old enough to see then-Lew Alcindor play for the Bucks.
    2. The story perfectly encapsulates the long and storied history of Wisconsin teams choking themselves to death in epic fashion, over and over and over again.

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