AMARE STOUDEMIRE raised his hands in the air, one covered in padding, as streamers fell from the ceiling above him. Finally, New York could celebrate an NBA playoff victory again.
Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points, Stoudemire had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a cut hand, and the Knicks snapped an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak by beating the Miami Heat, 89-87, Sunday in Game 4 of their first-round series.
"I think it's the first of many," said Stoudemire, his left arm back in a sling to keep his hand elevated. "Tonight was a great win for us, for our fans to finally get over that hump of those consecutive games that we lost, I guess the Knicks, lost over those years in the playoffs."
Anthony made a tiebreaking three-pointer with 54.5 seconds left as the Knicks overcame another serious injury to win a playoff game for the first time since beating Toronto on April 29, 2001, in Game 3 of a best-of-five series. Baron Davis dislocated his right kneecap in the third quarter, just as the Knicks were making the run that got them back into the game after a dismal first half.
"I'm just glad that we came together after that, kept our composure, kept on fighting and won the basketball game," Anthony said.
LeBron James scored 27 for the Heat, which will try to close it out in Game 5 at home on Wednesday. Dwyane Wade had 22, but missed a three-pointer on the last possession that would have given Miami a lengthy rest before starting the second round.
"We'd love to take the week [off] but it's not in the cards for us to do that in this round," Wade said. "You know, we'll adjust. We play Wednesday in Miami at 7 o'clock. We'll be ready to play and give our fans another exciting game."
Wade's errant shot set off a loud celebration from Knicks fans whose team was on the verge of getting swept for the second straight year, and third straight time dating to 2004. It didn't look as if the elusive postseason victory would come in this series, after the Knicks had been blown out by 20 points per game in the first three games.
But they got a huge lift from Stoudemire, playing with padding over his hand just 6 days after he punched a fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss in Miami. And they got a sensational effort from Anthony, who shot 15-for-29 and was one point shy of his playoff career best after he made only 34.4 percent of his shots in the first three games.
"We stepped up to the challenge," Anthony said.
Now here comes another: The Knicks need a solution at point guard after Davis was carted off on a stretcher with his severe knee injury. Jeremy Lin is close to returning from knee surgery, but Iman Shumpert was lost with a torn knee ligament in Game 1.
A day after the Dallas team that beat Miami in the finals was swept by Oklahoma City, the Heat failed in its attempt for its first sweep since beating Washington in the 2005 Eastern Conference semifinals.
The series was on pace to be one of the most lopsided in NBA history through three games, but this one was within four points the entire fourth quarter, the crowd at Madison Square Garden growing louder with every play that moved the Knicks closer to their first playoff win in 11 years.
Stoudemire had surgery Wednesday to repair a muscle in his left hand and the Knicks had listed him as doubtful for Sunday, but he was back on the court during practice Friday and cleared to play in Game 4.
"He's a good player. He's a great player honestly, and he gave them the spark that they needed," James said.
At Denver, Kobe Bryant scored 22 points and Andrew Bynum had 19 as the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a 92-88 win over the Nuggets and a 3-1 series lead.