There was nothing unexpected about Riley's call on the final shot; all fourth quarter he had run isolation plays for Hardaway. When it mattered most, Mourning wasn't even in the picture. "The bottom line is, I could've contributed a lot more," Mourning said after finishing Game 3 with 14 points, seven rebounds, five fouls and four turnovers. "I could've done a whole lot more to help us win." That would have included shooting free throws better: In the four games, Mourning was an abysmal 17 for 36 from the line.
The Knicks, of course, weren't surprised. New York spent this season gradually assimilating new acquisitions Childs, Williams, guard Allan Houston and forward Larry Johnson, but the club had faith that its superior bench (which got effective performances from Ward and Williams), its varied weapons and its core of veterans would wear down the Heat. "A lot of players on that team don't have a lot of playoff experience, and we're fortunate to have Patrick and [forward Charles] Oakley and John Starks and me," said Williams. "Down the stretch, that's why we've been able to pull out these wins. We haven't scored, but we still know what to do defensively. If you don't have playoff experience, it's hard to teach."
The Heat is learning this now. "We've got to do everything right," Mourning said. "Everything has to be perfect."
Perfect? Don't bet on it. Nothing about Miami's play in those early games gave off even a whiff of perfection. And the Knicks have all the elegance of a wrecking ball crashing. Ugliest work of art you ever saw.