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Mourning gets Knicks' attention

Coming into Game 5, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy was especially focused on Heat center Alonzo Mourning, who averaged 23.3 points in the four previous games and had 27 in New York's 91-83 win in Game 4.

"He's killing us," Van Gundy said. "In an 80-point game, he's scoring 27. That's like a third of their points. And we are paying attention to him. That's the bad part."

The Knicks befuddled Mourning early, keeping him out of the Heat's offensive flow. And when he did get into the action, he didn't fare well. He missed his first five shots. His first field goal came with 1:14 left in the first quarter. After going 1 of 6 from the floor in the first, he was 2 of 10 at the half for 10 points.

NO JUSTICE: Knicks forward Latrell Sprewell was more than a casual observer of the Bobby Knight turmoil at Indiana. Sprewell, who was suspended for 68 games and lost a reported $6.4-million in salary for his infamous choking of coach P.J. Carlesimo, thought Knight got off easy with a three-game suspension and a $30,000 fine for choking Neil Reed, among other offenses.

"If everyone wants to be so hard on me, and it was so outrageous, then I feel like they should have dealt with him a little stricter and a little harder," Sprewell said.

"When it happened with me, it was the end of the world It was like I was the worst person in the world with my incident. Then to have it turn around and be just the opposite on the collegiate level; it's bad, what can I say? It's a double standard, but life isn't fair."

STAT OF THE DAY: Wednesday's Game 5 could prove to be crucial. In the 100 previous best-of-seven playoff series that were tied at 2, the team that won Game 5, in this case the Heat, went on to win the series 84 times.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Mourning was given the league's defensive player of the year trophy during pregame introductions. Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, arguably the greatest defensive player in league history, presented the trophy to Mourning at center court.

JUST GLAD TO BE HERE: Knicks center Chris Dudley saw his first action of this series and he has Mourning to thank. Starter Patrick Ewing and backup Kurt Thomas picked up two fouls apiece guarding Mourning in the first quarter, forcing Van Gundy to call on Dudley. He played .07 of a second before being replaced by Larry Johnson.

Around the league

BLAZERS: The wife of center Arvydas Sabonis was charged with drunken driving about two hours before her husband's team played the Jazz. Ingrida Sabonis was cited Tuesday afternoon as she drove to a Portland school to pick up her four children.

CBA: Brendan Suhr was named executive vice president of operations and industry relations.

FINES APPEALED: The players association will appeal the suspensions and fines levied against Philadelphia's Matt Geiger and Indiana's Reggie Miller for their altercation during a playoff game, the union said. The league suspended Geiger for two games and fined him $20,000, while Miller was suspended for one game and docked $5,000 for a confrontation during Game 4 of the East semifinal.

PISTONS: The team will sign coach George Irvine to a three-year contract in the next few days, Bloomberg News is reporting.

SIXERS: Owner Pat Croce returned to practice one day after the fifth operation on his left leg in less than a year. He shattered his leg in 10 places in a motorcycle accident in June. The surgery removed two screws near Croce's ankle.

WIZARDS: Michael Jordan has offered the coaching job to St. John's coach Mike Jarvis, TNT is reporting.

WNBA: Anna Stepanova had 17 and eight rebounds off the bench to lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 76-57 exhibition win over the Detroit Shock in Auburn Hills, Mich.

_ DARRELL FRY, TIMES WIRES

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