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Storm warning

'Thunder Dan' finds his range as Heat take lead

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Posted: Thursday May 18, 2000 08:04 AM

  Dan Majerle Dan Majerle gets some love from Tim Hardaway after he helped the Heat seal the Game 5 win. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- One more win, and the Miami Heat will have vanquished the archrival that ruined their past two seasons.

Getting two clutch 3-pointers from Dan Majerle and another from Bruce Bowen, the Heat defeated the New York Knicks 87-81 Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.

Neither of the teams has beaten the other two straight times in the postseason since the end of their 1998 series, yet that is exactly what Miami will be trying to do Friday night when the series resumes at Madison Square Garden.

"We know we have to win one more game. Easier said than done," Miami center Alonzo Mourning said. "We should go into New York with the attitude that we're down one, not that we have a cushion. When we have a cushion we tend to relax and exhale and not do things we need to do in the effort department."

The key difference in Game 5 was the offensive burst they got from Majerle, who hadn't cracked double figures in the series since Game 1.

On a night when Jamal Mashburn scored 21 points and Mourning chipped in 18 before fouling out, Majerle's 16 were huge. Six of them came on consecutive 3-pointers -- one a heave from 27 feet as the shot clock expired -- to open a seven-point lead with 1:42 left that was too much for the Knicks to overcome.

Bowen's 3-pointer with 35 seconds left -- his only field goal of the game -- was the final blow.

Of the 100 previous best-of-seven series that have been tied 2-2, the team that won Game 5 has gone on to win the series 84 times. That strong statistic now favors the Heat, whose playoff series with the Knicks went the distance in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

"We were looked at as a non-factor in this series, outmatched," Mourning said. "Through the battles, we have persevered, each and every one of my teammates, and Timmy [Hardaway] and Dan tonight made some very big plays for us that made a difference in the outcome of the game."

Knicks at Heat
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Dan Majerle and the Heat pull away down the stretch to regain the series lead. Start (1.3 M)
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Majerle shot 5-for-7 from the field with five rebounds, helping Miami win the rebounding battle for the fifth straight game.

P.J. Brown grabbed seven offensive rebounds -- two more than all the Knicks combined -- while Tim Hardaway played perhaps his best game of the series with 12 points, four assists and just one turnover.

Latrell Sprewell had 24 points to lead the Knicks, who got just seven points from their reserves and could not find an offensive rhythm all night.

"We played well offensively," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "This team has to be committed to the importance of rebounding. That has been the difference in the series. Take everything else out, and that's the deciding factor."

Chris Childs hit a 3-pointer to make it a three-point game with 14 seconds left, but Mashburn hit two from the free-throw line, Sprewell missed a 3-pointer, and Majerle knocked down two more free throws with seven seconds left to wrap it up.

The turning point came midway through the fourth quarter after the Knicks had rallied to tie the score 68-68. Mashburn hit a turnaround, Sprewell got trapped and threw the ball away, and Majerle converted a three-point play on the ensuing fast break to make it 73-68.

Houston ended a three-minute scoring drought for the Knicks on a jumper with 2:54 left, and with New York double-teaming Mourning in the low post he found Majerle for a 3-pointer that made it 77-70 with 2:30 left.

Majerle then hit a 3-pointer from 27 feet as the 24-second clock expired with 1:42 left. Brown jokingly called it a 50-footer, while Mourning described it as coming from another area code.

"If the shot's there, I'm always going to shoot it, whether I make it or not," Majerle said. "I've got the confidence I can make that shot instead of going to the floor. I can always make that shot."

Mourning fouled out in the final minute, but his first disqualification of the series didn't make much of a difference.

Nor did the Knicks' quick start.

Sprewell had three steals in the first 3 1/2 minutes and hit his first four shots and Mourning missed his first five, including a baffling miss of a wide-open layup after he passed up an open 16-footer. The Knicks quickly took a 14-4 lead, but the Heat closed to 22-19 by the end of the quarter as Ewing and Kurt Thomas each picked up two fouls.

The Heat took their first lead of the night, 29-28, midway through the second quarter on an 18-footer by Anthony Carter, and Miami led 41-35 at the half after Mashburn went to the line for the first time in three games and made both free throws with 12 seconds left.

Hardaway, playing on a sprained left foot, had one of his best stretches of the series early in the third quarter, converting a three-point play and making a 3-pointer in a 12-4 run that gave Miami an eight-point lead.

"He did the little things that the Tim of old used to do," Brown said. "It's good to see that again. There were times in this game he took us on his back. If we get him to do that again Friday, we've got a chance to win."

Miami's lead grew to nine points later in the quarter at the expense of Houston, who threw away a no-look pass -- despite being taken to task by Van Gundy for a similar error in Game 3 -- and then got burned when Hardaway was isolated against him and blew around him with a crossover dribble for a layup that made it 64-55.

It was 64-60 entering the fourth and 64-62 after Larry Johnson completed a 7-0 run with a runner from the lane. Mourning picked up his fifth foul with 7:36 left, and the Knicks quickly tied it at 66-all by scoring two quick baskets.

Notes: Knicks center Chris Dudley saw his first action of the series, playing one second in the first quarter. ... The fans in the most expensive seats got on their feet and cheered when two loud Knicks fans, one wearing a Marcus Camby jersey and the other a Johnson jersey, were ejected by police early in the second half. ... Hall of Fame center Bill Russell, who presented Mourning with the Defensive Player of the Year award Tuesday, was in attendance.

 
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Multimedia
Miami's Dan Majerle explains the key to the Heat's Game 5 victory. (138 K)
Miami's Tim Hardaway insists that his team prefers to complete the series in six games. (115 K)
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy believes his team experienced a defensive letdown. (213 K)
Van Gundy harps on the significance of a strong rebounding effort. (279 K)
Van Gundy commends Dan Majerle on his performance. (241 K)
Miami's Jamal Mashburn emphasizes aggressiveness as the key to the Heat's success. (314 K)
Mashburn knows that closing out the series in New York will be a hard nut to crack. (275 K)
Miami's Alonzo Mourning explains that it's been difficult for the Heat to win games and defy critics. (302 K)
Mourning credits each of his teammates for fulfilling a role against New York. (49 K)
Miami's Bruce Bowen describes the circumstances surrounding his late 3-point opportunity. (82 K)
Majerle addresses a suggestion that his team relies heavily upon long-range shooting. (72 K)
Miami's P.J. Brown recognizes that several of his teammates are 3-point specialists. (101 K)
New York's Allan Houston insists that his team must improve its perimeter defense. (70 K)
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