MIAMI - The most bruising rivalry in the Atlantic Division resumed Wednesday night, and the Miami Heat again had a slight edge against the New York Knicks.
Tim Hardaway scored 15 of his 27 points in the final period to help the Heat strengthen their hold on first place by beating New York 86-82.
"It was time for me to get aggressive," Hardaway said. "I saw open shots. I took them. I made them."
The game was the first between the division rivals since last year's stormy seven-game playoff series, which Miami won after a fight in Game 5 that led to the suspension of five Knicks and Miami's P.J. Brown.
Miami increased its lead over second-place New York to three games.
"That's the significance of the win," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "It's two proud teams."
They meet again Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
"It's going to be a good game," Knicks guard John Starks said, "but with a different outcome."
New York lost guard Chris Childs, who suffered a concussion when he was accidentally kneed in the back of the head by Miami's Eric Murdock. Allan Houston scored 27 points for the Knicks, who outrebounded Miami 51-32 but shot just 35 percent.
"We just couldn't make any shots," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Part of it had to do with their defense. Part of it also had to do with us just missing shots."
The Knicks missed their first 13 shots in the fourth quarter, then scored 10 consecutive points. Starks' jumper gave them an 80-79 lead with 1:40 remaining, but Hardaway hit a 25-footer with one minute left to put Miami ahead 82-80.
It was the 18th and final lead change. After Charlie Ward missed a shot, Jamal Mashburn made two free throws for Miami and Voshon Lenard added two free throws with 17 seconds left.
Hardaway was 6-for-9 in the fourth quarter, including a trio of 3-pointers.
"He was absolutely magnificent," Riley said.
"He always means a lot to their team," New York's Charles Oakley said. "He takes big shots. He did that against us last year and he did it again tonight."
New York led 65-56 before Miami began an 18-4 run sparked by Hardaway. The All-Star guard scored 11 points during the spurt and led Isaac Austin perfectly with a high 35-foot pass for a spectacular dunk.
Childs was hurt in the second quarter when he slipped, lost control of the ball and fell to the floor. Murdock, who was pursuing the loose ball, then hit the back of Childs' head with his left knee.
The Knicks guard was taken to a hospital for tests, which were negative. He is expected to miss Thursday's game against Milwaukee.
Notes: Hardaway aside, the Heat were 1-for-7 and the Knicks 4-for-21 in the fourth period. ... Miami is 12-8 with Alonzo Mourning as a starter and 15-7 without him. New York is 9-7 without the injured Patrick Ewing and 15-11 with him. ... New York won both regular-season games in Miami last season. ... The Heat rallied to win foonly the second time after trailing at the start of the fourth quarter.