MIAMI (TICKER) —Travis Best sank a driving layup with 4.5 seconds left as the Miami Heat scored eight unanswered points over the final 74 seconds to pull out an 82-80 victory over the New York Knicks.
Miami trailed 80-74 before LaPhonso Ellis halved the deficit with a 3-pointer at the 1:14 mark. After a turnover by the Knicks, Best drained a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key with 41 seconds to go.
“I thought about driving to the basket, but as (Clarence) Weatherspoon closed out, he dropped his hands,” Ellis said.
“I knew the only way for the Heat to get back into the game was with threes,” Knicks coach Don Chaney said. “They got the threes.”
Allan Houston missed a layup, and New York committed a foul that allowed Miami to inbound the ball in the frontcourt. Best split the defense for the game-winner.
“I started toward the basket and it turned out that I didn’t have to use the screen, because (Howard Eisley) pushed me to my right,” Best said. “It opened up and I went straight to the hole.”
After their collapse, the Knicks had a chance to tie, but Kurt Thomas missed an open 18-footer and time expired.
“We executed down the stretch,” Jones said. “We did what we had to do defensively by forcing their best players to pass the ball to non-shooters, and we came away victorious.”
“The guys really needed this,” said Heat coach Pat Riley. “We played well for six games in a row. It’s harrowing. Six straight games going down to the wire. We lost the last two in the last minute-and-a-half. We found enough poise and guts at the end to win this one.”
Miami is 3-3 in its last six games.
Latrell Sprewell and Houston scored 18 of New York’s 20 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 28 and 20 points, respectively.
With New York trailing, 66-58, after Jones’ jumper with 2:14 left in the third, Sprewell found the range, hitting a pair of 18-footer around two free throws to cut the deficit to 66-64.
Howard Eisley evened the game with a layup, and Sprewell knocked down another mid-range jumper before Houston capped the 12-0 burst with a 19-footer for a 70-66 advantage.
Miami clawed within two points four times but was answered on each occasion by Sprewell or Houston.
The duo went cold, however, after Houston sank a 15-footer for an 80-74 cushion with 4:14 to play. New York missed all eight shots thereafter, and did not take one trip to the foul line.
“We definitely gave them a gift tonight down the stretch,” Houston said. “We just have to bounce back and get ready for the next one.”
Eisley scored 18 points and Thomas pulled down 12 rebounds for New York, which shot 39.5 percent (30-of-76) from the floor and committed 18 turnovers in losing for just the second time in seven games.