NEW YORK - There was an expectation that the New York Knicks' season would come to an end on Sunday afternoon.
There was, in fact, an ending on the court at Madison Square Garden, but it wasn't that one.
Neither the Knicks' season nor their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Miami Heat came to an end on Sunday, but the Knicks' playoff losing streak is officially history.
Behind 41 points from Carmelo Anthony and 20 points and 10 rebounds from a returning Amar'e Stoudemire, New York won its first playoff game in over a decade on Sunday, scoring an 89-87 victory over the Heat to extend their season. The Heats still leads the series 3-1.
"I thought Melo and Stat (Stoudemire) were huge tonight," said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. "We needed a big game out of both of those guys to get over the hump, and it could not have happened to two nicer persons, because they've been fighting all year, and now we've got this monkey off our back and we're still playing."
LeBron James had 27 points and Dwyane Wade 22 for the Heat, who became the first team to lose a playoff game to the Knicks since April 29, 2001, when the Knicks defeated the Toronto Raptors, 97-89.
"It's not ideal, obviously," said Heat head coach Erik Spolestra, "but it is the deal. We have to own it. The Knicks made enough big plays there at the end. We have to give them credit. We had many opportunities -- particularly when we had double-digit leads -- to create some more separation, but we weren't able to do it."
The Knicks took an early 1-0 lead on a Landry Fields free throw, but the Heat responded with eight unanswered points to take apparent control. The Knicks, however, battled back, staging an 8-0 run of their own to take a 15-12 lead with 3:49 left in the first quarter. The last six points of that run were scored by Stoudemire, back from a lacerated left hand, as he finished the first quarter with eight points, four rebounds and an assist as the Knicks held a 20-18 lead after 12 minutes.
"An injury to the hand is never a good thing," Stoudemire said, "so I really wanted to come out today and play as hard as I can, try to get us a win."
The Heat did their best to derail those hopes as the second quarter opened, scoring 12 unanswered points to take a 30-20 lead. The Knicks missed six straight shots -- including three in a row by J.R. Smith -- before Josh Harrelson scored to make it 30-22 with 6:32 left in the half. Anthony found his groove in the ensuing minutes, scoring 10 of his 41 points in the last 5:13 before halftime, but the Knicks couldn't cut into Miami's lead, and headed to the locker room at halftime trailing, 44-38.
The Heat kept command of the game early in the third quarter, extending their lead to 11 points on a Chris Bosh jumper with 8:43 remaining. Stoudemire, however, rattled off five straight points before an Anthony layup cut the Heat lead to four at 51-47, and Smith's three made it 51-50. After a Bosh free throw extended Miami's lead to two, Anthony drained another jumper to tie the game with 4:30 left in the third, and he put the Knicks ahead with a three-point play. The re-energized Knicks continued to battle the Heat for the remainder of the period, and went into the fourth quarter leading 64-61.
The Knicks and Heat battled back and forth throughout the fourth quarter, with neither team leading by more than four points, until the teams headed into the final minute deadlocked at 84. With the Garden crowd hitting a fever pitch as the shot clock dwindled toward zero, Anthony drilled a three-pointer for his 40th point and an 87-84 lead.
The ensuing Heat possession saw Bosh throw the ball away, resulting in a backcourt violation and a Knicks possession. Anthony tried for another three, drawing a foul on Shane Battier, but made just one of his three shots, giving New York a four-point lead with 26 seconds left.
With his team in trouble, James raced back the other way and completed a three-point play, drawing the sixth foul on Knicks center Tyson Chandler in the process. A foul on Stoudemire had the desired effect, as he hit just one of two free throws to make it 89-87.
The Heat called timeout, but the best shot they could get was a fading Wade three-pointer that rang off the iron. Time expired as the ball came down, followed by streamers to celebrate the end of New York's 13-game playoff losing streak, the longest in NBA history.
"It's about time," Woodson said. "This team is good enough to win games. We've proven we can beat anybody in this league, but it could not have happened to a better group of guys and for the Knick fans. This is what they've been waiting for for a long time, but it's just one game. We still have a long way to go."
The Heat, meanwhile, plan on showing the Knicks just how much further they have to go when the teams return to American Airlines Arena for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday.
"We're a confident bunch," James said. "We understand what it takes to win, and we're looking forward to going back to our home and doing the things that it takes to win the ballgame."
NOTES: Knicks point guard Baron Davis went down with an apparent right knee injury and left the court on a stretcher with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter. Davis was dribbling on a fast break, but went down after making contact with the Heat's Mike Miller.... Four members of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants were in attendance on Sunday: receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, linebacker Chase Blackburn and safety Kenny Phillips. They were joined in the crowd by former Knicks star Bernard King and New York Yankees great Bernie Williams.
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