For those who question just how sweet revenge is, go talk to the New York Knicks.
Taking advantage of Heat center Alonzo Mourning's absence, the Knicks withstood a furious 21-3 second-half rally to earn a convincing 98-81 victory over the Miami Heat in the series-deciding Game 5 of this Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup at Miami Arena Sunday afternoon.Allan Houston poured in a game-high 30 points for the Knicks. Guard John Starks, normally a reserve, started the game and chipped in 22 points. Forward Charles Oakley contributed 18 points and 13 rebounds.
And Charlie Ward, relatively ineffective throughout the series, registered 14 assists and added seven points, including a pivotal three-pointer that ignited a 14-3 run late in the fourth period to hold off Miami. It allowed the Knicks to salvage a 20-point second-half lead, and to relish the fact that they were able to avenge last season's semifinal loss to the Heat on the very same court - and under the same circumstances.
"We remembered what happened to us," Starks said, referring to last season's Game 7 loss in Miami after the Knicks led the series, three games to one. "That's why we don't want to think about 1/8the Pacers3/8 right now. We want to enjoy this moment."
The Knicks will meet the Indiana Pacers in their second-round matchup, beginning Tuesday night. But you couldn't get a soul in their locker room to talk about that Sunday.
The preferred topic of conversation was how "the brawl" in last year's Game 5 - when Heat forward P.J. Brown flipped over Ward, igniting a melee - cost Brown and five New York players suspensions, and ultimately the series. And how a similar result could have occurred after a fight near the end of Thursday's Game 4 of this series.
Mourning and Knicks forward Larry Johnson got into a fight with 1.4 seconds left on Thursday. The consequence was a two-game suspension for both, starting with Sunday's game. Considering that Johnson, who was averaging 20.3 points in the series, was New York's lone low-post option, the Knicks seemed in deep trouble.
With Mourning, who had been averaging 19.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in the playoffs, out of the way, the Knicks dominated inside. They outrebounded the Heat, 49-43.
The Knicks passed the character test within the first 24 minutes. They got a combined 21 points from Houston and Starks, along with 5-of-6 shooting from Oakley, to take a 47-31 lead into the break.
Heat guard Tim Hardaway shot just 1-for-7 in the first half, and the Heat as a team hit just 11-of-31 (35 percent). They surrendered 50 percent shooting (19-of-38) and were outrebounded at that point by a 24-13 margin. The Knicks were suffocating them in every way imaginable, and went ahead 69-49 with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
"We tried to come back, gave it all we had. But we just didn't come out with the urgency. It cost us in the end," said Hardaway.
Not before the Heat, sparked by a Hardaway three, made a valiant 12-1 run to end the third period down 70-61. Not before they completed their 21-3 run with a 9-2 spree to start the fourth, pulling within 72-70 with 7:16 left.
"We had them at that point," said Heat reserve forward Mark Strickland, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. "I could see it in their eyes. They were scared, man."
But Ward responded with a three over Hardaway with 6:46 left, "and that just killed us," said Heat coach Pat Riley. "It took the life out of us."
So did the ensuing 14-3 run over the next 2:49, which ended the game, and the series.
The outcome was difficult for some to take, as several Heat and Knicks fans in the arena were fighting near game's end. It must have been difficult for Mourning to watch from his living room in Coconut Grove. Fla., since his absence may well have cost his team the series, something unbecoming of a $105 million franchise player.
But not everyone on the Heat was mired in despondency.
"Nah!," said Hardaway, when asked if he'll leave with a bitter taste because of what might have been. "I'm going to go home, have a bottle of grand marnier, and chill ... out."
BULLS 83, HORNETS 70: At Chicago, the Bulls clogged the lane and contested the perimeter, playing good defense. But more than anything Sunday, the Charlotte Hornets couldn't score because they couldn't make shots.
The result: an 83-70 victory for the Bulls and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Michael Jordan had 35 points and Scottie Pippen 25, scoring just 10 fewer than the entire Hornets team, as the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter to win their fourth straight playoff game.
Charlotte, which led by one at the half, scored just 10 third-quarter points and finished with 32 in the second half. The Hornets shot 36 percent for the game.
Game 2 is Wednesday at the United Center, where the Bulls are 23-1 in the postseason the last three years.
Glen Rice, who shot poorly against the Bulls in four regular-season games, led the Hornets with 25 points, but he was just 9-of-25 from the field.