MIAMI -- Alonzo Mourning butted heads Sunday with the New York Knicks and came away a winner.
Mourning, briefly dazed in a head-to-head collision with Charlie Ward in the third period, shook off the cobwebs and sank the game's final two shots, giving the Miami Heat an 87-83 victory in the opener of the second-round playoff series.
"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."
The Heat, eliminated in the opening round by New York each of the past two years, will try for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup Tuesday night in Miami.
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.
"I think that's the way this series is going to be played," Heat coach Pat Riley said.
"We thought we had it won," Knicks center Patrick Ewing said. "We've got to play a little better down the stretch."
The Knicks didn't make a basket in the final 5:34, and Mourning didn't miss in the final minute. First he got a half step inside on 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 an Allan Houston 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."
The officials called only five fouls in the opening period, but after that the game was more characteristic of the bruising rivalry. Mourning and Ward banged heads scrambling for a loose ball in the third period, but both stayed in the game.
"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.
"Both teams go to us quite a bit, especially down the stretch, but it's not a one-on-one matchup," Mourning said. "We're going to have our battles in the post, but there's more to it than this matchup."
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.
"I wanted to just control the tempo and be another scoring threat out there," Hardaway said.
The veteran point guard gave the Heat a scare when he appeared to re-injure his left foot as Ward dribbled past on his way to a layup early in the second half. Hardaway limped off the court and to the locker room but was back in the game seven minutes later after having his ankle retaped.
"It was hurting pretty bad," Hardaway said. "Then I walked around in the locker room and it started feeling better."
Miami's Jamal Mashburn scored 21 points and helped hold Latrell Sprewell to 11. Brown had eight points and 16 rebounds.
After a frantic stretch in which the lead changed hands seven times in five minutes, Ewing's free throw made the score 77-77. Sprewell sank two free throws with 55 seconds left to make it 83-all, but the Knicks didn't score again.
They went 0-for-5 with four turnovers in the final 5:34. The last three misses were by Sprewell, Chris Childs and Larry Johnson.
"Terrible execution," Sprewell said. "When you play a team like the Heat, you can't disappear down the stretch the way we did."
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