NEW YORK (AP) -- As they left the court after the loss to the New York Knicks, the Miami Heat seemed stunned and done.
They had blown an 18-point lead and let the Knicks off the hook with a 72-70 win, forcing a decisive Game 7 Sunday. This is not what they wanted and not what the Heat expected, especially not after the way they abused the Knicks in the first half of Game 6 on Friday night.
''They are very very disappointed because they wanted to close out,'' coach Pat Riley said. ''But they walked in the locker room like it was their last chance, and it wasn't.''
It never seems to be with these two.
Behind those downcast looks is the memory of the last two years, when the Knicks marched into Miami to win decisive games of playoffs and end the Heat season. Alonzo Mourning promised that Game 6 would be a little payback for the Heat, a chance to come into Madison Square Garden and send the Knicks on their way for a change.
And it certainly started out that way.
The Knicks seemed lethargic and lackadaisical, making mistakes all over the place, helping the Heat to a big lead that stood at 15 points at halftime.
Coach Jeff Van Gundy said he didn't have much to say with the Knicks trailing the Heat 40-25.
''There were no adjustments to make,'' he said. ''There was no nothing. We picked the most inopportune time to play the worst half we played all year, and we played very poorly. I told them they were going to be part of the best comeback in their playoff lives and if they didn't believe, stay in the locker room.''
Allan Houston knew there was work to be done and time to do it.
''We didn't play a good first half'' he said. ''We didn't look back on this, and that's the key, not only in basketball. You can't look back. You've just got to keep pressing on, and that's what we did.''
All the Knicks showed up for the second half and embarked on the best comeback of their playoff lives. They hit the first five shots and shaved the lead from 15 to 10 to five by the start of the fourth quarter.
Through it all, the Heat stayed in front, and Riley thought they would survive the Knicks' push.
''We were plus six inside of three minutes,'' he said. ''And we missed, turned it over, didn't rebound and fouled.''
It sounded like just what the Knicks had done in the first half.
With the crowd roaring, the Knicks caught the Heat on a pair of foul shots by Chris Childs with 1:31 to play and then went in front on two more by Houston with 17.6 seconds left.
Now it would come down to one last shot. Riley wanted it to go to Mourning, who led the Heat with 22 points.
''We wanted to drive the basketball basically, posting up Zo, which is what we got,'' he said. ''But he got immediately swarmed, and when he got swarmed, you've got to play. The ball came out and I thought we got a decent look at it. That's all you can ask for.''
On the Knicks sideline, Van Gundy watched the flight of the ball and then got ready for one more flight, this one for a Game 7 Sunday in Miami.
Houston led the Knicks with 21 points, while Latrell Sprewell and Patrick Ewing added 15 apiece. Ewing also had 18 rebounds as the Knicks beat the Heat off the boards for the first time in the series, finishing with a 46-41 edge.
Riley looked forward to teeing it up once more time with the Knicks, whose rivalry with the Heat has grown to one of the best in the NBA.
'''It's just one big death grip that both teams have on the other,'' he said. ''It's two teams with their best game on Sunday., There isn't going to be much time to rest and collect ourselves.''
Ewing, at age 37, sighed about playing one more game.
''We could be on vacation right now, but there is still life in us.''
The Heat noticed.
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