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Miami steps up, finds shots

Two clutch late 3-pointers from Majerle and another from Bowen hold off Knicks.

Trois. Trey. Trifecta.

Whichever way you want to say it, three was Miami's magic number Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat got three key three-pointers down the stretch to hold off New York 87-81 and get the all-important third win in the best-of-seven East semifinal series.

Dan Majerle, who had hit only five previous three-pointers in this series, delivered two in the final 2{ minutes to quiet a Knicks rally. Then, reserve forward Bruce Bowen, playing in place of star center Alonzo Mourning, who fouled out with just under a minute left, dropped the definitive three-pointer with 35.2 seconds to go. That one gave Miami a 83-77 lead that only a total collapse at the free-throw line could erase.

Miami hit enough of those freebies to take Game 5 and a 3-2 lead in front of a capacity crowd of 20,021. It heads to New York, where it can wrap up the series Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

"We can't dwell on the 3-2 lead we have because we have to go up to New York," Heat guard Anthony Carter said. "Hopefully we can go up there and steal one."

All five Heat starters finished in double figures in either scoring or rebounding. Jamal Mashburn, whose fast start in the post-season had cooled over the previous two games, led the Heat with 21. Mourning had 18 and four blocks. Majerle, who had 10 fourth-quarter points, finished with 16. Tim Hardaway added 12 and P.J. Brown had five and 12 rebounds.

Latrell Sprewell led all scorers with 24. Patrick Ewing added 16. Allan Houston and Charlie Ward each had 12 and Larry Johnson chipped in 10.

"We certainly didn't have enough will to make the stops we needed," said New York coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose club was soundly outrebounded for the third straight time 42 to 32.

"When it was tied at 66, we didn't guard at all. They blew by us on the dribble and broke us down. One of Dan's threes was really, really deep. We played good defense on that possession. But we didn't always defend well when we needed to. In those kinds of situations, you've got to dig down."

This was vintage Heat-Knicks, an offensively poor matchup. In Game 3, neither team broke 80 despite going into overtime. In Game 5, there were 46 combined fouls. Both teams shot less than 50 percent from the field and less than 75 percent from the free-throw line. And at least one team _ this time it was the Knicks _ scored fewer than 15 points in a quarter.

New York, though, looked good early. Despite being in a hostile environment, the Knicks were poised and patient offensively at the outset, using good ball movement to find the high percentage shot. They literally couldn't miss, hitting their first five field goals.

Miami stumbled early mainly because Mourning struggled, shooting 5-for-17 for the game. He was hardly involved in the Heat's offensive flow at times and missed five of his first six shots, one of which was a routine layup with just under six minutes left in the opening quarter.

Miami survived its morose start and eventually got going, leaving behind a first quarter when it shot 35 percent from the field.

Carter canned a jumper midway through the second to give the Heat its first lead of the game at 29-28. Miami eventually pulled away, getting 10 third-quarter points from Hardaway to build its biggest advantage of the game at 64-55.

With the score tied at 66 and Mourning saddled with his fifth foul, the Heat went on an 11-4 run to take a 77-70 lead. The final points of the run came on one of Majerle's three-pointers.

Even when Ward answered with a three-pointer, Majerle came back with another one, a good 4 feet behind the arc, that put Miami up 80-73. Mourning finally fouled out with 56.2 seconds to go and the Heat hanging on 80-77.

But that's when Bowen pulled off his heroics, taking the pass from Carter and hitting the three-pointer from the left side for a 83-77 lead with 35.2 seconds to go.

"The game was crucial tonight, possessions were crucial," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "It really doesn't matter what plays you call throughout the course of those possessions. Someone has got to step up. Somebody has got to be aggressive. You can't have any fear at that time. You have to play. And we did."