Say this for the New York Knicks: They are men of their word.
After getting thumped in the first game of their opening-round series against the Heat, they vowed to put up more of a fight in Game 2 Sunday. They did, shaking off another slow start en route to a 96-86 win at Miami Arena.
Now, it's second-seeded Miami that's feeling _ well _ the heat as it heads to New York for Games 3 and 4 Tuesday and Thursday in the best-of-five series.
"We've got to go to New York and do what they did down here," Heat coach Pat Riley said.
History is on Miami's side. No Eastern Conference seventh seed ever eliminated a second seed. But that was little comfort to the Heat, which thought it let New York revive itself after being on the brink of expiring Sunday when it trailed by 14 points in the second quarter.
"We let them off the hook, obviously," Miami center Alonzo Mourning said. "We kind of exhaled, and you can't do that against this team. They are very scrappy."
After a flimsy defensive stance in Game 1, New York took Miami down a back alley and gave the Heat the business. The Knicks limited the Heat to 40 percent shooting from the field, including 31.8 percent in the second quarter, and shut down point guard Tim Hardaway, who had 34 points in Game 1.
Hardaway didn't shoot nearly as well this time, hitting just 4-of-15 from the field and 1-of-5 from three-point range and finishing with 15 points. Mourning, though, stayed out of foul trouble and led the Heat with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
"With Tim, we had to make him play some defense," Knicks guard John Starks said. "Last game we didn't make him play any defense, and it showed out there."
New York also got Allan Houston into the flow at last. A smooth-shooting guard held to 5-for-18 shooting in Game 1, Houstonscored 24. And Starks, who had a quiet 14 points in Game 1, had 25 off the bench, including four three-pointers. They, along with Larry Johnson (22 points), helped the Knicks post their biggest offensive production against the Heat this season.
"I didn't think they did anything differently," Riley said. "I thought they executed better and Allan was more aggressive and strong with the ball and made his shots when he was open.
"I thought the key to the game was John. He gave them tremendous energy and gave them a big, big game, and that was a big, big lift for them."
New York needed a lift Sunday, just as it did in Game 1 when it didn't get one. The Knicks fell behind by 10 in the first quarter, once again showing little of the tenacity or harassment that made them the second-best defensive team in the league during the regular season.
They gave up layups. Left players open for three-pointers. And generally didn't strike any fear in the Heat, which shot a comfortable 52.9 percent from the field in the first quarter when it led 31-21.
Unlike in Game 1, when the Knicks were about to be pinned to the mat, they got up. Their team down 46-33 with 3:47 left in the half, Starks and Houston came charging as if someone had pulled a fire alarm. In a little more than two minutes, they squeezed off four straight three-pointers that helped cut Miami's lead to 46-45 and eventually pull even at 50 at intermission.
"We weren't actually cruising, but we got hit with a barrage," Riley said. "I thought that was a critical, critical part of the game."
New York stayed close after that, then got another burst from Houston and Starks midway through the fourth quarter that Miami simply couldn't withstand.
Said Riley: "Once they got ahead by seven or eight points, they could smell it."