Work in Sports
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Chants of "Char-lie, Char-lie" reverberated around Madison Square Garden in honor of the point guard who has been an outright nuisance for the Miami Heat.
Charlie Ward continued his aggressive play, scored the last nine points of the game for the New York Knicks and finished with a playoff career-high 20 in a 91-83 victory over the Heat that evened their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two wins apiece.
After averaging only 7.3 points per game during the regular season, Ward has emerged as a key figure in this series. With a gimpy Tim Hardaway and rookie Anthony Carter guarding him and Miami coach Pat Riley concentrating his defense on perimeter threats Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell, Ward has hurt the Heat with his athleticism and penetration.
"It felt good to feel like Allan and Latrell," Ward said. "I've had that opportunity when I was playing football to make big plays when it's expected of you to make big plays. It's not going to happen every night when I'm the go-to guy."
Best known for winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback when he led Florida State to the 1993 national championship, Ward hit 8-of-13 shots from the field, including three 3-pointers, grabbed seven rebounds, tracked down loose balls all over the floor and committed only two turnovers.
He scored New York's last nine points over the final 4:04 with Carter guarding him. Ironically, Carter drove around Ward when his controversial shot went high over the backboard, bounced off the rim and dropped through with 2.2 seconds left, giving Miami a 77-76 overtime win in Game Three.
Today, however, Ward took advantage of Carter down the stretch, blowing right by him for a layup as New York matched its biggest lead at 84-75.
Alonzo Mourning converted a three-point play with 3:50 remaining and made 1-of-2 free throws with 3:34 left to pull the Heat within 84-79. However, Mourning blew a chance to cut into the deficit further when he was fouled by Marcus Camby and missed a pair of free throws with 2:28 to go.
Ward responded with his most electrifying basket of the game. After driving by Carter, he converted a shot high off the backboard as he was fouled by P.J. Brown, giving the Knicks an 86-79 advantage with 1:51 left.
The driving shot earned Ward a standing ovation from the Garden crowd.
"Just to hear the crowd behind him was great," Houston said. "It's a great feeling for someone who gives so much of himself to the team on and off the court. We know what Charlie means to us."
A follow dunk by Mourning again pulled Miami within five with 1:30 remaining, but Ward made a 15-foot jumper from the left sideline with 1:09 remaining and put an exclamation point on his performance with a 3-point jumper from the right sideline with 36.1 seconds left.
"Whenever I can score it's a plus but my game is playing with energy and energizing the guys on defense, steals, hustle plays and rebounds," Ward said. "That's what I try to bring to this team."
Houston scored 17 points and Sprewell added 16, including 14 in the first half, for the Knicks.
Mourning led the Heat with 27 points and 14 rebounds and again outplayed Patrick Ewing, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 11 rebounds. However, Mourning also committed nine of Miami's 17 turnovers.
"I don't think it was anything they did," Mourning said of his turnovers. "It was just the decisions that I made personally and when you are in a tough series like this you almost have to be mistake free and today we definitely weren't."
Game Five is Wednesday in Miami.
After playing only 18 minutes in Game Three, Hardaway was limited to 25 minutes today due to his foot injury and finished with five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Afterwards, he had praise for Ward.
"I thought he was aggressive on the offensive end and made shots and made things happen," Hardaway said. "He played a good ballgame."
Dan Majerle had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Jamal Mashburn also scored 13 points for the Heat.
Miami outrebounded the Knicks, 48-37, but committed 17 turnovers which the Knicks turned into 28 points and shot 43 percent.
"It was the game that I was afraid we were going to play," Riley said. "They had a lot to do with it, but I don't think our focus and our concentration was there. We were absolutely careless. Not only from an offensive standpoint but also from a defensive standpoint."
Ward scored seven points to ignite a 20-10 run over the final 8:28 of the third quarter, giving the Knicks a 66-57 advantage.
With Hardaway covering him most of the quarter, Ward scored on a driving shot, a short banker and a 3-pointer. Houston added a basket and a 3-pointer in the spurt.
A 9-0 run gave the Knicks a 26-17 lead late in the first quarter. Sprewell ignited it with a jumper and capped it with a pair of free throws. He finished with 10 points in the quarter.
A dunk by Mourning and a flip shot by Carter in the final minute of the quarter brought Miami within 26-21.
The Knicks built the lead back to eight, 33-25 on a pair of free throws by Sprewell with 8:03 left in the half.
Miami went on a 13-4 run as Mourning scored on a jump hook and a follow shot. A jumper from the left sideline by Mashburn capped the spurt, giving Miami a 38-37 lead with 2:10 left in the second quarter.
"I've got to stay on Zo (Alonzo) a little bit more," Ewing said.
"I'm trying to help a little bit too much and leaving him wide open on the rim and he's taking advantage of it."
After the teams traded baskets, Chris Childs hit a 3-pointer with 35.5 seconds remaining in the half to give the Knicks a 42-40 lead at the break.