Work in Sports
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Call it a comeback. Call it a collapse. Whatever it was, it sent the New York Knicks and Miami Heat to a decisive game for the fourth straight year.
The Knicks erased an 18-point second-quarter deficit, allowing the Heat only 25 points in the second half, and pulled out a 72-70 victory on Allan Houston's two free throws with 17 seconds remaining.
The win tied the Eastern Conference semifinal series and forced Game Seven on Sunday in Miami, where these teams have decided their season each of the last four years. The Heat won Game Seven of the conference semifinals in 1997. The Knicks took Game Five of the first round in 1998 and 1999.
"It's just one big death grip that both teams have on the other," said Heat coach Pat Riley, whose team did not score in the final 2:21.
"This was a great, great comeback," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "(But) the only thing that makes it memorable is if it leads to a series win."
Waiting for the survivor are the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, who ousted the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Six earlier tonight.
It was the biggest playoff comeback by the Knicks since the advent of play-by-play in 1970. They erased a 17-point deficit to beat Boston in Game Four of the 1973 Eastern Conference finals and climbed out of a 16-point hole against Toronto in Game Two of the first round this year.
It also matched the lowest-scoring playoff game in NBA history. Phoenix and San Antonio played a 72-70 game earlier this season and Detroit and Atlanta combined for just 142 points last year.
Houston scored 21 points and Patrick Ewing added 15 and 21 rebounds for the Knicks, who gave away the lead midway through the first quarter and did not get it back until the frenetic final seconds, benefiting from a pair of ill-advised fouls by the Heat.
The first came with 1:31 to go as P.J. Brown fouled out running up the back of Chris Childs while trying to get back on defense. Childs sank both shots to tie the game.
Miami's Anthony Carter missed a 3-pointer but Alonzo Mourning blocked a shot by Marcus Camby. Ewing deflected a pass for Mourning and, after a timeout, the Knicks went to Houston, who drove right and was bumped by Majerle before turning the corner. Houston also sank both to give New York its first lead since the 6:58 mark of the first quarter.
"They called a cheap foul," said Majerle, who scored 10 points. "It's hard to understand why you call something like that in this type of game."
On the final possession, the Heat worked the perimeter before going inside to Mourning, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. But he was quickly double-teamed and swung the ball to Carter, whose potential game-winner from the top of the arc hit the back iron as time expired, sending Madison Square Garden into bedlam and both teams back to South Beach.
"It was absolute madness," Riley said. "We had opportunities and we did not take advantage of those opportunities. We missed, we turned it over, we didn't rebound, we fouled. And that was the game."
Latrell Sprewell had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who won the battle of the boards (46-41) for the first time in the series. New York also got a boost down the stretch from Childs, who was going to be removed by Van Gundy with five minutes to go.
With the Knicks trailing, 64-58, Van Gundy sent Charlie Ward to the scorer's table. Childs drove for a basket and Ward turned toward Van Gundy and urged the coach to keep Childs in the game.
"He told me in the shower that he told (Van Gundy) to leave me in," said Childs, who struggled earlier in the game. "We've done that all year. That's why our relationship has become so special."
"I just told him, 'Let him stay in. He's on a roll, the team is rolling,'" said Ward, who scored seven points and has been the better point guard in this series.
Carter scored 15 points, including jumpers on consecutive possessions that gave Miami a 70-66 lead with 2:21 remaining. Childs missed a jumper but Ewing dunked it home with 1:57 left, setting up the finish.
"We could be on vacation right now, but there's still life in us," Ewing said.
After jumping to a 9-4 lead, there was no life in the Knicks. Majerle picked up where he left off in Game Five with two 3-pointers and the Heat quickly grabbed control, opening a 21-16 lead after one quarter.
Two baskets by Ewing opened the second period and cut the deficit to one point before Miami went on a 22-5 run over the next 8 1/2 minutes. Sprewell was whistled for a flagrant foul, Kurt Thomas was hit with a technical foul and Houston was the only Knick to score.
Carter scored six points in the spurt and a free throw by Bruce Bowen gave the Heat a 43-25 lead with 2:02 remaining in the second quarter. Mourning scored 13 points as Miami led 45-30 at halftime, holding New York to 27.5 percent (11-of-40) from the field.
"We didn't speak very long (at halftime)," Van Gundy said.
"There were no adjustments to make. There was no nothing. We picked the most inopportune time to play the worst half we played all year, and we played very poorly. I told them that they were going to be part of the best comeback in their playoff lives and if they didn't believe, stay in the locker room."
The Knicks heard boos in the second quarter but changed them to cheers with a 13-3 burst over the first 3 1/2 minutes of the third period. Houston scored five points and Sprewell four, including a 17-footer that pulled New York within 48-43.
"The last thing I said coming out of the locker room, I said a lot is going to be determined on what happens in the first four or five minutes of this period," Riley said. "They got right back into the game and developed some confidence and began to play."
The Heat never really regrouped. They led 58-53 entering the final period and Carter's jumper stretched it to seven points.
But even with the Knicks in the penalty for the final 7:14, Miami could not hold on.
"Just amazing," Mourning said. "All you've got to do is some of the smallest things out there to finish games off and it's just a matter of doing them. We got a little complacent and a little less aggressive and stopped doing the things that we did to get the lead."
Miami shot just 33 percent (22-of-66), including 5-of-22 from behind the arc. New York wasn't much better, shooting 38 percent (27-of-71). In the series, the Knicks are the only team to break 90 points and have scored five more points than the Heat, setting up Sunday's showdown.
"This is what you all wanted, man," Mourning said. "You wanted a Game Seven and you got it."