Heat win NBA series opener against Knicks

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Alonzo Mourning beat Patrick Ewing for a layup with 41 seconds left and hit a jumper over him with 5.6 seconds remaining to lift the Heat to an 87-83 win over the New York Knicks in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Ewing fired the first salvo for the series between the two bitter conference rivals when he proclaimed himself the best centre in the East. Mourning refrained from responding to his fellow-Georgetown alumnus but did his talking on the court.

The All-Defensive Team member scored Miami's final eight points, including four clutch free throws before his last two baskets, and finished with 26 points.

His two free throws with 3:24 left tied the game at 81-81.

After a turnover by New York's Allan Houston, the Heat isolated Mourning, who was bumped by Ewing as he attempted a baseline drive. He again converted both from the line to give Miami an 83-81 advantage with 2:49 remaining, the ninth lead change of the quarter.

After Chris Childs and Larry Johnson missed 3-pointers for New York, Tim Hardaway missed a pair for Miami. New York's Latrell Sprewell was fouled on a rebound and hit both free throws with 55 seconds left to tie the game.

The Heat took the lead for good when Mourning outmuscled Ewing for inside position, took a bullet pass from Dan Majerle and scored an easy layup. The Knicks attempted to get the ball to Ewing in the lane, but the pass was deflected away and retrieved by Hardaway.

New York coach Jeff Van Gundy elected not to foul and the Heat milked the clock until Mourning hit an open 12-foot jumper from the left side with four seconds left on the shot clock and 5.6 seconds remaining.

Ewing, who was playing with back spasms, scored 17 points on just 6-of-16 shooting.

Houston, who hit the game-winning runner in the lane in a decisive Game 5 win at Miami last year, led the Knicks with 21 points.

Jamal Mashburn outplayed Sprewell and scored 21 points for the Heat, who will host Game 2 on Tuesday.