Wade lost the ball momentarily but regained control and dribbled into the corner. He faded away. He fired away. He said he thought the shot was good. It was not.
The shot clanged off the rim, and the Knicks won, , at Madison Square Garden and lived to see another day. The longest postseason losing streak in N.B.A. history, 13 games, is now in their rearview mirror.
Wade’s miss was the final play in a string of seven possessions of drama in a game that had been lacking it.
“We got a switch on Amar’e,” Wade said of Amar’e Stoudemire, describing the final play. “I was attacking the rim, kind of lost it. When I lost it, it kind of forced me out a way.”
He added: “I think there was a little confusion at that time. There was other options. They just switched everything. So it was no triggers pulled from that standpoint.”
LeBron James said he “would love to have the ball” on the final possession, “but as a team we all win games together, we lose games together.”
“That’s all that matters,” he said.
Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said James was the second option on the play, an option lost when Wade fumbled the ball.
“I had the shot I wanted before I fumbled the ball,” Wade said. “I had him on my hip. I had the runner that I wanted.”
A 3-pointer by Mike Bibby staked the Knicks to an 84-81 lead with 1 minute 23 seconds remaining. The shot kicked off a late-game sequence that was little like the preceding 46-plus minutes, which included the teams’ extended drought from beyond the 3-point arc: they combined to miss 22 in a row.
But those misses were an afterthought when James responded to Bibby’s 3-pointer with one of his own out of a timeout to tie the score. James credited Chris Bosh with setting the screen that freed him for the shot.
Carmelo Anthony, who scored 41 points, responded to James’s basket with a 3-pointer. Anthony hit the shot with Shane Battier all over him, and the Knicks led, 87-84.
“Law of averages usually plays out,” Battier said of the contrast between the late-game flourish from behind the arc and the rest of the game.
The Heat then committed a backcourt turnover after some confusion. Wade and Anthony ended up tangled, and Bosh, expecting Wade to be elsewhere, threw the ball away. On the ensuing possession, Battier, who has guarded Anthony much of the series, was whistled for fouling Anthony as he fired up a 3-pointer. The call may have been suspect.
“Out of respect for my paycheck, I’m going to abstain from any comments that may lessen that paycheck,” Battier said.
Anthony hit one of three free throws, and it was 88-84.
“It’s the matchups that we had at the time, matchups that have worked for us,” James said when asked why he was not guarding Anthony. “It doesn’t matter who’s on who. When a great player has it going offensively, you can put anybody on him. I felt like Shane has done a great job in this series. We all had done a great job in this series of containing Melo.”
James also said he guarded center Tyson Chandler to help prevent him from corralling an offensive rebound if Anthony missed.
James gave the Heat a chance by countering Anthony’s free throw with a 3-point play. He jackknifed between Anthony and Chandler and absorbed contact from Chandler, converting the layup with his left hand while falling out of bounds, then sank the free throw.
The Knicks were down to a 1-point lead, and the Heat fouled Stoudemire, who made one of two foul shots. Anthony could not score off an offensive rebound, setting up Miami’s final play.
The Heat spoke more about being undone because Anthony, who made 15 of 29 shots from the field, made difficult plays than a final play that went awry.
“He was going to go out gunning,” Wade said of Anthony, adding, “We live with contested jump shots.”