NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony and Amar‘e Stoudemire, avoided a sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat and ended an 11-year playoff victory drought with an 89-87 win at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The rousing victory kept New York alive, narrowing Miami’s lead in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series to 3-1.
Red, white and blue streamers fell from the rafters of the Garden to celebrate New York’s first playoff victory since April 2001 and end their NBA record string of postseason defeats at 13 in a row.
“It’s about time,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “This team is good enough to win games.”
Anthony poured in 41 points and Stoudemire, returning to action after cutting his left hand with a disgusted swing at a glass fire extinguisher case after their Game Two defeat, added 20 points for New York.
“It was a big day for us, a big game for us,” said Anthony. “We stepped up to the challenge and left it all out there on the basketball court. It was a great feeling, especially to win here at the Garden.”
LeBron James led Miami with 27 points and Dwyane Wade, who missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, scored 22.
It was a valiant victory for the undermanned Knicks, who had already lost defensive standout Iman Shumpert to a knee injury earlier in the series and had lost starting point guard Jeremy Lin to an injured knee in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Knicks suffered another blow midway through the third quarter when veteran point guard Baron Davis crumpled to the floor on his way to a fastbreak basket with what turned out to be a ruptured kneecap.
It was another defensive struggle between the teams with few uncontested shots and hard fouls on players driving to the hoop.
The Heat had trouble converting their opportunities from the foul line, which spelled trouble for them in the tight contest. Miami shot just 24-of-35 from the free throw line, with Wade missing seven of 11 attempts.
Stoudemire provided inspiration with his return to the court and the sold-out Garden crowd roared in delight when the power forward slammed down successive dunks in the first quarter.
“It makes me feel better that we won,” said Stoudemire, his left hand protected in a sling after the game. “I wanted to play as hard as I could and try to help us get the win.”
Miami led by 44-38 at the intermission and the Knicks outscored them 26-17 in the third quarter to claim a 64-61 lead.
Down the stretch, the game boiled down to a duel between Anthony and James.
Anthony, who scored 12 points in the final stanza, snapped an 84-84 tie with a three pointer for an 87-84 lead with 54 seconds left, after James had tied it with a three-pointer.
Anthony drew a foul on his next three-point attempt but made only one of three free throws to give New York an 88-84 lead.
James closed the gap again with a dazzling drive to the hoop, spinning down the lane and flipping in a left handed shot while drawing the sixth foul from New York center Tyson Chandler. He completed the three-point play to make it 88-87.
After a free throw by Stoudemire with 14 seconds left for a two-point lead, Wade missed his three-pointer to end it.
James said Stoudemire, who played with bandaging around his injured hand, “gave them the spark that they needed”.
Game Five of the first-round series returns to Miami on Wednesday.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Mulvenney