Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire ended two droughts in one afternoon of inspiring, no-quit basketball, winning back some of the New York fans who have become disenchanted with the Knicks' two stars.
After losing point guard Baron Davis to a dislocated right kneecap in the third quarter and watching him leave on a stretcher, Anthony and Stoudemire wouldn't let the Knicks lose the game and be swept for a second straight season.
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They totaled 61 points in Game 4 Sunday as the Knicks beat the Heat, 89-87, at the Garden to send the first-round series to Miami for Game 5 Wednesday. The Heat leads the series three games to one.
When Dwyane Wade missed a contested off-balance, turnaround step-back three-pointer at the buzzer, the Knicks celebrated their first playoff win since 2001, ending an NBA-record streak of 13 consecutive postseason defeats. Anthony and Stoudemire each earned his first playoff victory as a Knick.
"We needed a big game out of both those guys to get over the hump," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "It couldn't happen to two better people. They've been fighting all year and now we got this monkey off our back. We're still playing."
Game 5 wouldn't have been possible without help from other players, including Mike Bibby, who hit a key three-pointer with 1:23 left. But this game belonged to Anthony and Stoudemire.
Anthony led all scorers with 41 points, including 23 in the second half, and shot 15-for-29. He had struggled for most of the series against the Heat's stifling defense, but with reminders of his past playoff failures everywhere, he didn't wilt. Said Woodson, "He wasn't ready to go home.''
Stoudemire had 20 points and 10 rebounds, shot 8-for-13 and helped the Knicks erase an 11-point third-quarter deficit. He faced serious criticism and scrutiny after injuring his left hand when he punched a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher after Game 2 and was unable to play in Game 3. But he returned with his surgically repaired hand heavily taped and padded and teamed with Anthony to pull out an important win. "It's the first of many," Stoudemire said. "It's a great win for us, for our fans, to finally get over that hump."
LeBron James led the Heat with 27 points and Wade had 22.
No NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series, and there were times it appeared the Knicks' season again would end in a sweep. "We didn't want to go home," Bibby said. "We didn't want this to be our last game. We definitely don't want the next one to be our last game either, so we're going to go out there and play as hard as we can and get a win."
Bibby's three-pointer made it 84-81, but James tied the score seven seconds later with his own three. Anthony again put the Knicks up three when he hit a three-pointer over Shane Battier with 54.5 seconds to go.
Under pressure, Chris Bosh threw the ball into the backcourt for a turnover, and Battier fouled Anthony as he attempted a three. He missed the first two foul shots but hit the third to make it 88-84 with 25.9 seconds left. James then drove, hit a tough running lefthanded bank shot, drew Tyson Chandler's sixth foul and hit the free throw to make it 88-87. The Heat intentionally fouled Stoudemire, who made the first but missed the second with 14.8 seconds to go.
On the final play, Wade drove, Stoudemire picked him up on a switch and Landry Fields doubled. With the lane sealed, Wade dribbled to the corner and missed a turnaround three, sending it back to South Beach.
"Guys came in extremely focused, ready to play," Anthony said. "Everyone was talking about this being a big day, big game for us as a team. We came out there and stepped up to the challenge. We did it as a team.''