Heat 95, Knicks 90
NEW YORK (AP) _ After all the hype, all the dirt and all the suspensions, the Knicks-Heat series will go down to the wire.
``The ultimate game,″ Pat Riley said.
It will be Game 7 on Sunday at Miami Arena, the place where this second-round series turned the Heat’s way.
The sequence of events that unfolded last Wednesday in that building _ a bench-clearing brawl that led to five suspensions and the harshest punishment in NBA playoff history _ produced ramifications that were felt Friday night. The shorthanded New York Knicks simply didn’t have enough to close out Miami, losing 95-90 when their suspension-weakened lineup couldn’t keep up down the stretch.
As a result, Miami is within one victory of becoming the sixth team in NBA history to successfully come back from a 3-1 deficit _ unless Seattle does it today at Houston.
But the Heat will have to get a victory in a building where they have already lost three times to the Knicks _ twice in the regular season and also in Game 1 of this series.
``It’s one game for the season,″ Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. ``We’re either going to move on toward our goal or go home.″
Alonzo Mourning and Dan Majerle had their best games of the series as the Heat used a flurry of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The Heat overcame an emotion-charged New York team still reeling from the NBA’s suspension of six players _ five Knicks and Miami’s P.J. Brown _ for a brawl in Game 5.
New York was without its two leading scorers, Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston, as well as backup point guard Charlie Ward. The Knicks will have to play Game 7 without Larry Johnson and John Starks, who will serve their suspensions, while Brown will sit out the second game of his two-game suspension.
The Knicks made up for the loss of Houston’s and Ewing’s offense for more than three quarters. But a cold spell midway though the fourth _ along with their inability to stop Mourning inside all game long _ sealed their fate.
``Obviously, when you have players out from both teams it has an impact, but we had more than enough to win with,″ Van Gundy said.
Mourning led Miami with 28 points and nine rebounds, Majerle added 18 points with four 3-pointers and Tim Hardaway scored 20 points.
Chris Childs led New York with 22 points, Johnson had 20 and Charles Oakley had 18 points and 12 rebounds as all three had their highest-scoring games of the series.
The Knicks were ahead 72-68 with eight minutes left before the Heat began their final push with two 3-pointers from Hardaway for a 74-74 tie.
Miami pushed the ball upcourt after the Knicks missed shots on their next three possessions, and the sudden burst of energy seemed to catch the exhausted Knicks on their heels.
``They were a step slow getting back because they only had nine players. We knew that, and we knew we had to run,″ Hardaway said.
Voshon Lenard, Majerle and Hardaway all scored on fastbreak layups to cap a 9-0 run that made it 80-74. After Childs made two free throws with 3:35 left, Majerle answered with Miami’s third 3-pointer of the quarter.
Starks hit a 3-pointer to pull New York to 83-79, but Majerle made another 3 to restore the seven-point lead.
Childs responded again, making a driving layup and a foul shot for a three-point play with 1:37 left, but it was only a setup for the biggest shot of the game: Mourning’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left for an 89-82 lead.
``That 3 was the real backbreaker. That was a big-time shot by him,″ Van Gundy said.
Mourning drained the shot from the top of the key, his first 3-pointer of the playoffs, second of the season and 22nd of his career. Then he turned to the crowd and gave a strong-man pose to rub it in.
That shot caused several hundred fans to head for the exits, and even two 3-pointers by Starks in the final 30 seconds weren’t enough to get the Knicks closer than three.
Without Brown, the Heat were outrebounded 46-36, but they overcame it by committing only 14 fouls, turning the ball over only nine times and shooting 46.7 percent from the field, their best of the series.
``It feels great to come back from down 3-1, but we still have to do it _ and we don’t want nothing easy,″ Hardaway said. ``We can’t have a letdown and can’t relax or we’ll lose.″