Heat kicks Knicks in semis

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The Independent Online

Heat 87 Knicks 83

The fourth quarter started in frantic fashion, with the lead changing hands on almost every basket.

Then, the New York Knicks went cold.

Then, the Miami Heat went ahead for good.

With head-butting hustle, suffocating defense and two clutch baskets by Alonzo Mourning, the Heat edged their bitter rivals 87-83 in the opener of the second-round playoff series. Game 2 is Tuesday night.

After a week of hype leading to the series, the rivals started with a thriller. The score changed hands 14 times and was tied 11 times, including at 79, 81 and 83.

"We thought we had it won," Knicks center Patrick Ewing said. "We've got to play a little better down the stretch."

New York didn't make a basket in the final 5:34, while Mourning didn't miss in the final minute. First he got inside position against Ewing, took a feed from Dan Majerle and scored for an 85-83 lead with 41.8 seconds to go.

Miami regained possession when P.J. Brown tipped Allan Houston's pass, and Mourning swished a 17-footer with 5.6 seconds left.

"Zo was the go-to man," Brown said. "When he took those shots, I had no doubt they were going in."

In the final 5:34, the Knicks had 10 possessions and scored just two points - on free throws by Latrell Sprewell. They went 0-for-5 with four turnovers down the stretch.

"We can't make your shots when you don't even have a chance to take the shots," said Houston, who made New York's final basket and finished with 21 points.

The Knicks' final three misses - by Sprewell, Chris Childs and Larry Johnson - came with Miami leading 83-81.

"Terrible execution," Sprewell said. "When you play a team like the Heat, you can't disappear down the stretch the way we did."

The Heat played the kind of defense that helped them win the Atlantic Division, allowing New York just 15 points in the fourth quarter.

"We locked it down," Brown said. "The screws got bolted, and we screwed them in."

Lakers 105 Phoenix 77

Shaquille O'Neal had 37 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in host Los Angeles' rout.

Kobe Bryant added 25 points for the Lakers. Penny Hardaway led the Suns with 25 points, while Cliff Robinson, who battled foul problems, added 13 and rookie Shawn Marion had 12.

Phoenix's Jason Kidd, playing his second game since breaking his left ankle March 22, was held to three points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Trail Blazers 94 Jazz 75

Scottie Pippen scored nine of his 20 points in the final nine minutes as Portland pulled away at home.

Karl Malone scored 22 points for Utah despite injuring his left knee on a freak play in the second quarter. Malone was sitting on the bench when teammate Armen Gilliam dived for a rebound and crashed into Malone's chair. Malone came out limping slightly in the third quarter, but played the rest of the way.

Utah has lost its last 12 playoff games in Portland dating to the 1991 conference semifinals.