MIAMI -- The fourth quarter started in frantic fashion, with the lead changing hands on almost every basket.
Then, the New York Knicks went cold.
Then, the Miami Heat went ahead for good.
With head-butting hustle, suffocating defense and two clutch baskets by Alonzo Mourning, the Heat edged their bitter rivals 87-83 Sunday in the opener of the second-round playoff series. Game 2 is Tuesday night.
After a week of hype leading to the series, the bitter rivals started with a thriller. The score changed hands 14 times and was tied 11 times, including at 79, 81 and 83.
''We thought we had it won,'' Knicks center Patrick Ewing said. ''We've got to play a little better down the stretch.''
New York didn't make a basket in the final 5:34, while Mourning didn't miss in the final minute. First he got inside position against Ewing, took a feed from Dan Majerle and scored for an 85-83 lead with 41.8 seconds to go.
Miami regained possession when P.J. Brown tipped Allan Houston's pass, and Mourning swished a 17-footer with 5.6 seconds left.
''Zo was the go-to man,'' Brown said. ''When he took those shots, I had no doubt they were going in.''
In the final 5:34, the Knicks had 10 possessions and scored just two points -- on free throws by Latrell Sprewell. They went 0-for-5 with four turnovers down the stretch.
''We can't make your shots when you don't even have a chance to take the shots,'' said Houston, who made New York's final basket and finished with 21 points.
The Knicks' final three misses -- by Sprewell, Chris Childs and Larry Johnson -- came with Miami leading 83-81.
''Terrible execution,'' Sprewell said. ''When you play a team like the Heat, you can't disappear down the stretch the way we did.''
The Heat played the kind of defense that helped them win the Atlantic Division, allowing New York just 15 points in the fourth quarter.
''We locked it down,'' Brown said. ''The screws got bolted, and we screwed them in.''
Elsewhere Sunday, it was the Los Angeles Lakers 105, Phoenix 77, and Portland 94, Utah 75.
Heat 87, Knicks 83
The officials called only five fouls in the opening period, but after that the game was more characteristic of the bruising rivalry. Mourning and Charlie Ward butted heads scrambling for a loose ball in the third period, but both stayed in.
''The Heisman Trophy winner had some flashbacks for me,'' Mourning said with a chuckle. ''It kind of shook me up a little bit. I didn't play too much football.''
Ewing, who boasted earlier this week that he's the best center in the Eastern Conference, came out second-best against close friend Mourning. The Heat center scored his team's final eight points and finished with 26 to go with six rebounds.
Ewing, who sat out practice Saturday because of back spasms, showed no effects from the ailment and had 17 points and nine rebounds in 40 minutes.
Tim Hardaway, who missed the Heat's first-round sweep of Detroit because of a sprained left foot, rejoined the starting lineup and had six points and seven assists in 30 minutes.
''Physically Timmy isn't where he wants to be, but he's still a vital part of this team,'' Mourning said. ''I want him on the floor with one leg or one arm, because down the stretch he's going to get the ball to the right people for us to win.''
Miami's Jamal Mashburn scored 21 points and helped hold Sprewell to 11. Brown had eight points and 16 rebounds.
''We've got a long way to go, man,'' Mourning said. ''I heard a lot of people saying, 'Zo, you won the battle today.' This series is far from being over.''
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