Work in Sports
MIAMI (Ticker) -- For the fourth straight year, the NBA's best rivalry went the limit. For the third straight year, the New York Knicks came out on top. For the second straight year, the Miami Heat came up one point short.
The Knicks survived, 83-82, in a great Game Seven and returned to the Eastern Conference finals as the Heat's season again came skidding to a stop on their home floor.
"To come to the same place three straight years in the deciding game and win, it's an accomplishment," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
As they have over the past four postseasons, New York and Miami scratched and clawed for the slightest advantage. Four of the seven games went down to the final possession and the teams were separated by only six points.
"I can't even say that they played well or we played poorly," Heat forward Jamal Mashburn said. "It hurts and eats at you. We had chances in this series to close it out. You prepare, you play your heart out and you come up short."
The Knicks won the last two games of the series and stopped a three-game losing streak in Game Sevens. They will face the top-seeded Indiana Pacers on Tuesday in a rematch of last year's conference finals, won by New York in six games.
"It's just been amazing competition. I'm really proud of our players," Van Gundy said. "I have great empathy for their players, their team and their coaches because of how much they put into it."
"I've been in 13 world championship finals and I've never been in a final series that had as much intensity, as much effort, as this series," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I would like to see Jeff Van Gundy take this thing and win a championship."
Patrick Ewing had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who had a 10-3 run over the last four minutes to steal this one. Ewing scored the game's final points on a dunk with 1:20 to go and New York did not take another shot.
Mashburn missed a jumper but collaborated with Tim Hardaway to strip Chris Childs. Hardaway threw up a wild bank shot that ended up in a jump ball that Alonzo Mourning won, and the Heat called time with 12.4 seconds left.
"I thought the whistle was not a jump ball," Riley said. "I thought Alonzo was going to shoot two free throws."
Mourning, who had 29 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, took the inbounds pass and passed to Mashburn, who gave it to Clarence Weatherspoon -- an inside player with limited range. Weatherspoon took a couple of dribbles before launching a high, arching 15-footer that missed and Ewing tipped it toward the corner.
"I had the ball in my hands and they ran two guys at me," said Mourning. "I decided to kick it to Mash. Mash was wide open. He swung it to Spoon and they ran at him. I would've taken the last shot if I had a good look at it."
"At that point, it was all about getting the ball out of Zo's hands," Van Gundy said. "We were willing to accept any other shot."
Latrell Sprewell tracked it down and timeout was called with 2.1 seconds to go before he tumbled out of bounds. The Heat argued it was their ball.
"I didn't call timeout at all," Sprewell said. "I don't know who called it. I thought they gave me the foul. They were pushing me out of bounds and initially he called me out of bounds."
"We were all screaming, 'Time!'" teammate Larry Johnson said. "It couldn't have been Heat ball because I saw them holding Spree, trying to pull him out of bounds."
Referee Bennett Salvatore sorted out the mess.
"I have Sprewell calling timeout, but I wasn't sure where his foot was," he said. "I didn't believe he was out of bounds but I wanted to check with my partner that he was not out of bounds when the whistle blew. He confirmed that there was no question that a timeout came before he went out of bounds."
The Knicks moved the ball to half-court and, after a timeout, got a pass to Childs, who eluded a foul attempt and tossed the ball to the rafters of American Airlines Arena.
Last year, the Heat lost to the Knicks on a miraculous shot by Allan Houston. This year, they can blame only themselves, although they tried to put it on the referees. Miami made 11-of-21 free throws while New York hit 28-of-31.
"As much as we were attacked going to the basket, there was a disparity in the foul calling and it's hard to lose that way," Riley said. "This is very difficult for my team to take."
"Definitely we are the better team," Mourning said. "Unfortunately it didn't work out the way we wanted it to. I think we put more into this than they did."
Miami blew an 18-point lead in Game Six and an 11-point edge today. In the fourth quarter, it missed its first five free throws and made just one basket in the final 4:45, squandering a 79-73 lead.
Sprewell scored 24 points and a scoreless Marcus Camby grabbed 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who would not have won without Childs. He scored 15 points, including New York's first 10 of the final period.
"Chris Childs was a hero today," Houston said. "His heart just really kept us in the game and actually got us over the top."
Baskets by Mashburn, Mourning and Weatherspoon opened the final quarter and gave Miami a 71-65 lead before a three-point play by Childs halved the deficit. He added a pair of baskets to keep New York within three points midway through the period.
"I was not only trying to create things for myself but just trying to make something happen," Childs said. "The coaches and everyone say go to the basket to score, not to pass."
Mourning ended Miami's drought at the line with two free throws and Childs answered with one before a long jumper by Hardaway --who played his best game of the series with 15 points and seven assists -- gave the Heat a 79-73 lead with 4:45 left.
Childs made two free throws and New York finally got points from someone else as Ewing scored inside with 3:34 left. After a shot-clock violation -- Miami's third of the game -- two free throws by Johnson tied it at 79-79.
Sprewell made two foul shots 34 seconds later to give the Knicks the lead, but Hardaway answered with a 3-pointer for an 82-81 edge with 1:32 remaining.
The Knicks shot just 36 percent (26-of-72) from the field but again won the battle of the boards (46-43) and overcame a poor game by Houston, who was hampered by an ankle injury and scored only five points.
P.J. Brown scored nine points and Dan Majerle added eight and nine rebounds for the Heat, who shot 41 percent (33-of-80).
Mashburn scored 14 points on 6-of-27 shooting over the last two games after averaging 20 points through Miami's first eight in the postseason.
The first two quarters were mirror images of each other. In the opening period, Mourning nearly outscored New York with 14 points as Miami grabbed a 25-16 lead. In the second quarter, Sprewell scored 14 points, matching Miami's total, as New York surged to a 45-39 halftime advantage.
"I felt they were gonna double quicker on me because I had it going today. I kept attacking," Sprewell said. "When I had opportunities to shoot, I took the shot. I was looking to pass more than shoot in the second half."
Sprewell opened the second half with a jumper but scored just two points thereafter. Mashburn, Hardaway and Majerle buried 3-pointers before a three-point play by Brown capped an 11-2 surge and gave the Heat a 53-51 lead with 7:18 left in the third quarter.