In 1998, the Miami HEAT made their second consecutive trip to the playoffs as Atlantic Division Champions. Miami faced the New York Knicks in the first round of the best-of-five playoff series but failed to advance as NY claimed a three games to two victory.
FIRST ROUND (NEW YORK-3, MIAMI-2)
Game 1 - Apr. 24 (Miami 94, New York 79): Tim Hardaway scored 24 of his 34 points in the first half as the HEAT built a 24-point lead and held on for a 94-79 victory in Game One at Miami Arena. Hardaway, who victimized the Knicks in both of Miami's wins during the regular season, scored 14 points in the opening quarter, then added 10 more to give Miami a 57-37 halftime lead. P.J. Brown had 12 points and 10 boards for Miami, which never trailed in the game. Larry Johnson scored 21 points and Allan Houston added 17 for the Knicks, who lost their sixth straight visit to the Miami Arena. The HEAT limited Houston to 5-18 from the field and 0-1 from downtown. In 30 minutes off the bench, point guard Eric Murdock proved to be a factor, shooting 41.7% (5-12) from the floor and 75.0% (6-8) from the stripe, while dishing out a team-high five assists, grabbing six rebounds and two steals. New York shot a mere 36.6 percent (26-71) from the floor. HEAT Head Coach Pat Riley improved to 15-1 in playoff openers, with a 21.5 average margin of victory. Miami, which shot 44 percent (20-of-45) and held New York to just 34 percent (13-of-18) in the first half, opened its largest lead at 65-41 on a trey by Hardaway with 9:28 left in the third quarter. Despite the Knicks' effort to make a run with 6:40 remaining, Murdock made a free throw, Mourning sank a short jumper and Murdock scored again to push the lead to 84-71 with 4:17 left. The Knicks did not get within single digits again.
Game 2 - Apr. 26 (New York 96, Miami 86): New York tied the series, 1-1, with a 96-86 win in Miami. John Starks, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson combined for 71 points. New York's bench was the big factor, outscoring Miami's 36-10. Mourning led Miami with his first doubledouble of the playoffs, scoring a game-high 30 points and a team-high 13 boards. Miami held its biggest lead at 41- 27 midway through the second quarter, but the Knicks closed the quarter with a 19-6 run to tie the game at halftime, 50-50. John Starks was the story for New York in the second half, coming off the bench to contribute a team-high 25 points. The third quarter featured 12 lead changes and seven ties. A layup by Mourning gave Miami its last lead at 66-65 with 4:39 remaining in the quarter. The Knicks then began to pull away for the win and to tie the series.
Game 3 - Apr. 28 (Miami 91, New York 85): Starting guard Voshon Lenard and reserves Eric Murdock and Marty Conlon rose to the occasion as the HEAT won a tough road game, 91-85, in NY. In a game that saw unsuspecting heroes shine, the Miami HEAT stomped into Madison Square Garden and won for the first time at MSG since May 16, 1997 ('97 Playoffs, Round 2, Game Six). Tim Hardaway, Lenard and Murdock combined for 66 points. Lenard was on fire, scoring a playoff career-high 28 points on 10-15 shooting. Lenard had 14 points in the first quarter, when the HEAT grabbed the lead for good. He chipped in 10 more in the third period to stifle New York's rally from a 14-point deficit. Hardaway added 27 points, including seven in a late first-half surge that gave the HEAT a 56-44 lead. Murdock, a reserve who combined with Hardaway for 50 points in Miami's Game One victory, scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. He scored the biggest basket of the game, nailing a threepointer with 35.9 seconds left in the game to extend Miami's lead to seven. The trio of Lenard, Hardaway and Murdock helped contain Knicks guard Allan Houston, who scored 27 points, but just nine after a red-hot first quarter. Houston was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Larry Johnson added 22 points for the Knicks, who trailed by as much as 14 in the game. The HEAT improved to 4-22 alltime at Madison Square Garden. Miami now leads the series, 2-1.
Game 4 - Apr. 30 (New York 90, Miami 85): The Knicks avoided elimination in an emotional 90-85 win in New York to force a decisive Game Five. With the HEAT trailing by five points in the waning seconds tempers flared. New York's John Starks pulled down a rebound and headed up-court. Behind the play, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning got tangled and the emotions overflowed as the two threw punches. The result was ejection for both and suspension for the crucial Game Five. Game Four, however, was close in the first half. Tim Hardaway scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the first quarter and Mourning added 29 for the game. Johnson broke a 47-47 halftime tie by scoring the first six points of the third quarter to ignite a 13-2 Knicks run. Miami stormed back and closed within one, 61-60, on a three-point play by Mourning with 5:15 left. However, crucial free throws down the stretch would not fall for Miami and fouls added problems for P.J. Brown and Mourning. Brown picked up his sixth foul with 4:40 left while Mourning was limited to 38 minutes after picking up his third foul in the second quarter. As the HEAT tried to rally and pull ahead, Mourning was called for his fifth foul with 3:06 left in the game. New York held on for the win and tied the series, 2-2.
Game 5 - May 3 (New York 98, Miami 81): New York capitalized on a flat Miami HEAT team in the first half to earn a 98-81 win and the right to advance to the second round. The HEAT played without center Alonzo Mourning and New York was without Larry Johnson as both were serving their suspensions for the brawl in Game Four. Tim Hardaway sparked Miami's comeback with 18 points in the second half after scoring just three points in the first. But it was not enough to offset the performance of the Knicks' Allan Houston and John Starks. HEAT power forward P.J. Brown took over for Miami at center and had a strong game, recording his second double-double of the playoffs with 18 points and 10 boards. Jamal Mashburn was the only other HEAT player in double figures with 14 points. The HEAT, sparked by 13 points from Hardaway, bridged the third and fourth quarter with a 21-3 run to pull within two, 72-70. Miami closed the third quarter with a 12-1 spurt and opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run. Hardaway's three-pointer with 7:16 left ended the run, which sent the Miami Arena crowd into a frenzy. The Knicks responded, however, with their own 14-3 run to clinch the game and the series, 3-2.