The night Patrick Ewing came down from the mezzanine to ram home an offensive rebound against the Indiana Pacers and send the team to its first NBA Finals in 21 years, it was a Game 7.

The night John Starks shot the infamous 2-for-18 at Houston, it was a Game 7.

The afternoon Allan Houston got the bounce on the runner at Miami to save a season and his coach's job, it was a Game 5, but that's all they played in the first round in those days, so stop quibbling.

Game 7s make some men rich, damages the reputations of others and often changes the lives of men who live through them. In the Knicks' case, these experiences came with a symmetry: Their greatest rivals throughout the 1990s were Miami, Indiana and Chicago, and they played two Game 7s against each of them.

But it's the one they played on June 22, 1994, that they'll remember most.

"Houston," Nets guard Hubert Davis said yesterday, recalling Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals. "I'm the only one still playing in the NBA from that Knicks team. But the pain of that game ... yeah, it's too much. Maybe Game 3 was the turning point, when Sam Cassell hits that (3-pointer) to win it. I mean, Sam's great, but a rookie doing that? So talking about that Game 7 -- the whole series -- is very hard."

Imagine how it feels for Starks, who had been primed to make that game his finest NBA moment. The Knicks' mercurial shooting guard had had his last-second wing jumper blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon in Game 6 and, after two days of being targeted as a goat, wanted to repent for his sin of not getting the ball to Patrick Ewing off the curl.

Instead, he had perhaps the worst game in NBA Finals history, missing 16 of his 18 shots.

"I think a lot about it," Starks said recently. "And how I prepared for it and how I would have done it differently. You replay those things in your mind. But that's always going to be with me. I just have to accept it and move on."

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