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Knicks, Rangers could both make conference finals for first time in 30 years



INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Hart was watching the Minnesota Timberwolves force Game 7 in their second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets when he noticed the New York Rangers trailing the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1, entering the final period of Game 6 of their NHL second-round playoff series on Thursday.

“Sorry to say I didn’t watch [the game],” Hart said after morning shootaround at the Indiana Pacers’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday. “I saw they were down 3-1 after second intermission and I was like ‘oh, man’. New York is not going to be happy about that.”

Had the Rangers lost Game 6 in Raleigh, they would have had to protect home ice in a win-or-go-home Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

Instead, they pulled off the impossible, scoring four goals in the final frame to not only win Game 6 over the Hurricanes, 5-3, but to close the second-round series, 4-2. The Rangers are the first team playing at Madison Square Garden to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It was great for the fans and great for the city,” Hart said. “To have a team get to the conference finals, hopefully they can keep pushing.”

The Knicks entered Friday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers hoping to follow suit in a postseason with many similarities to their roommates in the Big Apple:

  • The Knicks and Rangers share not only home-court arenas but also the Tarrytown training facility for practice
  • Both teams had an opportunity to close their second-round series on the road in Game 6
  • Both teams had an opportunity to play their conference finals in Boston, with the Knicks (should they advance past the Pacers) destined for a third-round showdown against the Celtics, while the Rangers face the winner of the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.
  • And neither team has won a championship this century, though the Rangers went to the Stanley Cup and lost in 2014 and won it two decades prior in 1994.

“I’m glad that they finished it out,” said Miles McBride, who has attended at least one Rangers game this season. “We see those guys around the facility a little bit and, you know, we’re always telling each other good luck and, you know, just go get it done. So it’s good to see that they’re having success.”

The Knicks’ postseason success has not been as extensive.

They are on pace to make the Eastern Conference Finals for just the second time since 2000.

Their second-round appearance against the Pacers is just the third time the Knicks have made it this deep in the playoffs since their last conference finals appearance.

In fact, it’s been 30 years since both the Rangers and Knicks have been to their respective championship rounds in the same season. That happens to be the same amount of time it’s been since both teams have qualified for their respective conference finals.

And both teams could face a lifetime rival in Boston for a chance to win it all.

“Have I thought about it? Yeah,” said Hart. “You think about it and you think having an Eastern Conference Finals NBA and NHL. New York and Boston. That’s cool. That’s something we would love to do.”

The Knicks, however, can’t put the cart before the horse, and while the Rangers advanced to the conference finals, the other team at Madison Square Garden still had business to handle.

“At the end of the day we just have to focus on ourselves,” said Hart. “I mean [Indiana is] not an easy team. It’s not a team that’s going to get down 3-2 and lay down and and call it a season. So we have to handle our business. If something like that happens, it will be great for the city of New York, and also the city of Boston to have that little rivalry going.”

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said in the past he’s had admiration for Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette. Like Hart, however, Thibodeau didn’t have much time for things outside of his team’s shot to win Game 6.

“We don’t have a lot of time right now, so we’re just locked into what we gotta do,” he said with a smile ahead of tipoff on Friday. “But obviously I’m happy for them.”

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