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Sprewell: I didn't call a timeout

Perhaps the game's pivotal play came with 2.1 seconds left when Latrell Sprewell rebounded Clarence Weatherspoon's missed shot with New York clinging to a one-point lead.

Sprewell was off-balance as he tried to control the rebound under the basket. With Heat center Alonzo Mourning smothering him, Sprewell teetered along the baseline and finally fell out of bounds just before a timeout was called by the Knicks.

At least, that's the Knicks' version.

Miami argued that Sprewell was out of bounds before the timeout was called.

"(The ref) said it was out of bounds and pointed our way," Mourning said, "then he huddled with his colleagues and changed the call."

Referee Bennett Salvatore said afterward: "I have Sprewell calling timeout but I wasn't sure where his foot was. I didn't believe he was out of bounds but I wanted to check with my partner that he was not out of bounds when my whistle blew. He confirmed that there was no question that the timeout came before (Sprewell) went out of bounds."

When asked about it, Sprewell said he didn't call a timeout:

"I don't know who called it. I think maybe Marcus (Camby) called it. I thought they gave me the foul. Initially, (the ref) called me out of bounds."

Had Miami been awarded the ball, it could have attempted a winning shot.

"It's hard to lose that way," Heat coach Pat Riley said.

NO HARD FEELINGS: Even though Miami and New York are rivals and have gotten into several scuffles in recent years, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said a part of him felt bad about eliminating Miami the past three post-seasons, each time in a series-deciding game.

"I have empathy for any athlete or any coach or any team that puts as much into it as they do. I'm very proud of our team, but I also have great admiration for their team, their players, their coaching staff and how they go about playing the game."

STAT OF THE GAME: The Knicks won despite shooting 36.1 percent from the field. Allan Houston, guarded mainly by Dan Majerle, was 2 of 10 for five points, all in the first half. New York outrebounded Miami (46 to 43) for the second straight game.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Asked if the league was helping New York, hoping for a Knicks-Lakers matchup in the final, Mourning said: "Well, if they are going to do that, then they need to send us a memo before the season."

_ DARRELL FRY

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