Knicks beat Heat amid controversy

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 22, 2000

The Associated Press

MIAMI – Chris Childs caught the inbounds pass with 2.

Monday, May 22, 2000

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MIAMI – Chris Childs caught the inbounds pass with 2.1 seconds left and hurled the ball high into the air, finally putting the seesaw series between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat out of reach.

For the second year in a row, the Knicks were a single point better than their archrivals, beating Miami 83-82 Sunday in a thrilling Game 7.

The action didn’t end when the game did. Miami’s Jamal Mashburn chased after the referees shouting insults, and the Heat said bad calls tainted the Knicks’ victory.

”They had three officials in their pocket,” Mashburn said. ”You can print that. I don’t care if I get fined or not.”

New York, jubilant after eliminating Miami in a winner-take-all game for the third consecutive year, began looking ahead to the Eastern Conference finals. They start Tuesday at Indiana.

”It was a big win, but we still have a job to do,” forward Larry Johnson said.

The 65th and final lead change in Knicks vs. Heat came when Patrick Ewing slipped past Alonzo Mourning for a dunk with 1:20 to go. That ended the scoring, but there was plenty of excitement to come.

Mashburn and Tim Hardaway missed shots for the Heat, but they got the ball back with 12 seconds to go. Clarence Weatherspoon then missed Miami’s final shot of the season, and New York’s Latrell Sprewell grabbed the rebound as he stumbled out of bounds.

Referees Dick Bavetta, Dan Crawford and Bennett Salvatore deliberated, then signaled a timeout for the Knicks and awarded them possession with 2.1 seconds to go, clinching the outcome.

”I had Sprewell calling time out, but I wasn’t sure where his foot was,” Salvatore said. ”I didn’t believe he was out of bounds, but I wanted to check with my partner to make sure he was not out of bounds when my whistle blew. He confirmed that there was no question that the timeout came before he went out of bounds.”

There was only one problem with that explanation.

”I didn’t call timeout,” Sprewell said. ”I don’t know who called it.”

Miami was unhappy about several other calls down the stretch and a disparity in free throws throughout the game. And the Heat renewed complaints about the disputed foul that helped the Knicks pull out Game 6.

”We’re a better team than they are,” Mourning said. ”The last two games, we were (robbed) on the two calls.”

In such a close series, it was perhaps inevitable that the officiating would become a factor. The average margin of victory was four points, with no game decided by more than eight.

But the Knicks won Game 7 for many reasons. Childs had his best game of the playoffs, scoring 15 points, while Mashburn went 3-for-15. The Heat missed their first five free throws in the fourth quarter and finished 11-for-21 at the line, while New York went 28-for-31. Miami, which blew an 18-point lead Friday, squandered a six-point advantage with less than five minutes to go Sunday.

And for some reason, Weatherspoon took the Heat’s last shot of the season.

The reserve forward is a poor outside shooter who averaged just 5.2 points in the series. But on Miami’s final play, Mashburn caught a pass at the top of the key with eight seconds to go and tossed the ball to Weatherspoon on the right wing.

”I expected Spoon to swing it back,” Mashburn said. ”I knew there was a lot of time left.”

Weatherspoon instead started to drive, pulled up and shot a 12-footer over 6-foot-11 Marcus Camby. The ball bounced off the bracket to Sprewell.

”I had a good look,” Weatherspoon said. ”What can I say?”

Sprewell led the Knicks with 24 points. Ewing, still seeking his first NBA title at age 37, added 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Mourning had 29 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, but it wasn’t enough. Speculation has already begun regarding which of his teammates will be traded to shake up a club that has won four consecutive Atlantic Division titles but has yet to reach the NBA finals.

”Losing all measures up to be the same – it’s bad all the time,” Mourning said. ”It can’t get any worse. It’s all misery.”