The Miami Heat’s contest with the New York Knicks Saturday night represented a glorified practice session after their blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder a few nights prior.
Not only were the Heat met with the task of limiting the league’s second-best scorer in Carmelo Anthony, they also had to combat the Knicks’ small-ball lineup. Those small lineups that the Heat have popularized are now being used against them, evidenced by the Thunder sitting down Kendrick Perkins and going on a huge run with four perimeter players and Serge Ibaka in their win.
The Knicks employed a similar strategy against the Heat, putting Anthony at power forward and having Tyson Chandler as the lone big, mainly due to the injury to Andrea Bargnani and the overall ineffectiveness of guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin.
Carmelo wasn’t Kevin Durant, however, and the Miami Heat weren’t the Miami Heat from Wednesday night. The Heat put the clamps on Anthony, ran an efficient offense where the ball was constantly moving, forced turnovers, and actually made shots en route to a 106-91 win over the Knicks.
It was their first win in New York this season. They had already lost to the Brooklyn Nets twice and the Knicks once before. The Heat avenge a ten-point loss they suffered at the Garden in early January when they allowed Carmelo to score 29 and Stoudemire to record a double-double.
The Heat were aided by the injury bug. Both Bargnani and Iman Shumpert, who combined for 31 points on 21 shots in the first meeting, sat out. Miami, meanwhile, was with a roster that was completely healthy.
Although the entire roster was available, Erik Spoelstra utilized a concise rotation that bears a similarity to what the team will possibly be running in the playoffs. He only went eight deep, having Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Ray Allen as the only rotation players to come off the bench.
Every member of the starting lineup played at least 28 minutes. The short rotation may have also been a result of Shane Battier sustaining success on both sides of the ball throughout, as he played nearly 30 minutes, the second most he’s played this season.
Battier was arguably the Heat’s best player in the first half. He drained three three-pointers, while also holding Anthony to only eight points by the halfway point. Although Carmelo ended with 26 points on 17 shots, he struggled with seven turnovers and was aided with plenty of trips to the line.
Shane ended the game with a season-high 16 points. He also took Anthony to the rim on a baseline layup. It was weird.
A minute into the second half and the Knicks had already turned a seven-point halftime deficit into two, with J.R. Smith making yet another three-pointer to cap off the 5-0 run.
It was at this point that LeBron James plain had enough of the Knicks, as well as the overwhelming MVP talk surrounding Kevin Durant, who struggled in a loss to Washington Saturday night.
The Knicks’ 5-0 run was met by consecutive layups by LeBron and then a Mario Chalmers layup to stretch the Heat lead back to eight. After a timeout, James responded with a layup plus a foul, he missed the free throw, and then an assist to a Battier three that pushed Miami’s lead to 12.
New York would never get the deficit below four from then on out.
In the most crucial juncture of the game, LeBron James put Carmelo Anthony into a straitjacket. After Anthony hit a 13-footer to cut the Heat lead to six with 9:26 left, the Heat would run off an 8-3 run that put the lead to an insurmountable 11 points with 5:45 left.
Anthony was held without a single point from the 9:26 mark to the 3:04 point of the fourth.
By the time he hit that 15-footer, though, the Heat were already up 14 and Anthony was a non-threat over the 14-4 run that occurred during his six-minute stretch.
While Anthony struggled, LeBron scored six consecutive points and assisted on another two to put the game on ice.
Stat of the Game:
48 points in the paint. The Heat were, once again, struggling from deep, shooting 8-23 on the night after starting off 7-13, but were able to continually get into the paint against the Knicks’ porous defense.
LeBron was a constant presence in the lane as the Knicks went with the surprising move of having J.R. Smith defend James, while Carmelo Anthony was meant to get a rest defending Shane Battier.
Both moves backfired. Battier lit up Anthony in the first half and LeBron was constantly flashing in the post and getting easy looks at the rim.
LeBron James: 30 points, 13-22 overall, 1-3 from three, 3-6 free throws, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals; A
There’s something about the Garden that brings out the best in LeBron. He was unstoppable on the offensive end, taking advantage of a smaller defender in the first three quarters and then hitting a few ridiculous jumpers in the fourth, and owned passing lanes with a season-high six steals. This was an MVP-caliber performance on both ends of the court.
Dwyane Wade: 22 points, 10-15 overall, 0-2 from three, 2-3 free throws, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals; A-
Well, look at who made an appearance. Wade looked like the player we know he can be when healthy with the way he was hitting PUJIT(pull-up jumpers in transition) and cutting to the lane to pad LeBron’s assist totals. This is the first 20-point game for Wade since scoring 23 back on January 9th against this same Knicks team.
Chris Bosh: 4 points, 2-11 overall, 0-3 from three, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block; C
Bosh’s offensive game was, well, offensive. He airballed a three-pointer, although it directly led to a LeBron layup, and was off with his jumper all night. However, he made his presence felt on the boards with ten rebounds and overall solid defense on Chandler, it’s a good night any time he’s held without an alley-oop off a pick-and-roll, and keeping New York’s interior presence to a minimum with only 30 points in the paint.
Norris Cole: 9 points, 4-5 overall, 1-2 from three, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; A
Quite the interesting move was made in the fourth when Dwyane Wade came in the game and replaced Mario Chalmers, not Norris Cole. It was the right decision, though. Cole was huge in the fourth quarter, where he scored six points during a critical run in the middle of the quarter that helped turn a five-point lead into 11.
Four of those points came by way of contested layups, including a driving one over Chandler, while the sixth came via mid-range jumper on a fastbreak.
The Heat’s schedule in the second half of the season will only become progressively more difficult, so consider the injury-riddled Knicks as a breather. The Heat welcome in the underwhelming, though large, Detroit Pistons on Monday, before starting a six-game road trip that includes stops in Los Angeles, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas and Oklahoma City.