The Heat won for the first time in seven months Sunday night, using tough defence down the stretch and a clutch jumper by Jason Williams for a 75-72 victory over the host New York Knicks.
"We were just desperate," said Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds. "We really needed to get this win and we were going to do whatever we had to do to get it."
"It was just a matter of time before they beat somebody," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "Unfortunately, it was us."
Dating to last season and including the preseason, the Heat had lost 18 straight games since April 13. They dropped the final two games of last season, were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by Chicago, lost all seven of their preseason games and the first five contests of this season.
"I don't like to lose," Riley said. "It's not a whole bunch of fun."
The Heat trailed by eight points in the fourth quarter and were still in a 72-67 hole after two free throws by Eddy Curry with 2:30 to go. But Miami shut out New York the rest of the way.
"We've been right in the games and we've just had to figure out how to close them out and we did that tonight," Haslem said.
Haslem had a tip-in and a follow shot to cut the deficit to one point with 47 seconds left. The Heat forced a turnover, and Williams sank a 20-footer from the right side with 19 seconds remaining to give Miami a 73-72 lead.
"I just felt it was time for us to make one in the last 19 games," Riley joked.
Williams scored 17 points and was a huge factor in the final seconds, adding a steal and two free throws. On the final possession, he crowded Stephon Marbury and forced him to miss a potential tying 3-pointer.
"They were desperate for a win and outfought us and out-scrapped us at the end," Thomas said.
Shaquille O'Neal and Ricky Davis scored 14 points each for the Heat, who survived 6-of-25 shooting from the arc and attempted just nine free throws.
Curry scored 19 points and David Lee added 14 and 14 boards for the Knicks, who made just 3-of-16 3-pointers and went 2-2 on their home stand. They played without forward Zach Randolph, who was attending his grandmother's funeral.
The Heat are still awaiting the return of superstar guard Dwyane Wade, who is recovering from knee and shoulder injuries and practiced for the first time last week. But they are no longer waiting for that elusive first win.
"We can move on and try to climb back into the season," Riley said.
Washington 101, Atlanta 90
Caron Butler scored 24 points to lead all five starters in double figures as the visiting Wizards also notched their initial win of the season, averting the first 0-6 start in team history. Josh Smith scored 23 points for the Hawks.
Detroit 107, Seattle 103
The host SuperSonics could not become the day's third team to get its first win, falling to 0-7 for the first time in franchise history despite a combined 36 points from rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Richard Hamilton scored 32 points for Detroit (5-1). Houston 85, Charlotte 82
Chinese superstar Yao Ming scored a season-high 34 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 20 seconds left, to give the visiting Rockets their sixth win in seven games. Tracy McGrady added 26 points for Houston.
San Antonio 113, Milwaukee 88
Argentina's Manu Ginobili scored 21 points to lead seven players in double figures for the Spurs (6-1), who kept pace with the Rockets atop the South-West Division. French flash Tony Parker, rookie compatriot Ian Mahinmi and Dutch native Francisco Elson scored 12 points apiece.
Cleveland 103, L.A. Clippers 95
Lithuania's Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 25 points and sparked a fourth-quarter surge to lead the visiting Cavaliers. Sam Cassell scored 28 points for the Clippers, who have lost two in a row after a 4-0 start.
New Orleans 93, Philadelphia 72
Chris Paul and David West scored 16 points each and the visiting Hornets made 10 3-pointers to snap a two-game slide. The 76ers have dropped two in a row. By Paul Levine, dpa