Knicks win third in a row with victory over Heat
Prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Heat, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said he believed his squad could hang with the two-time defending champion. His team proved him to be prophetic as they upset the Heat, 102-92, Thursday night.
Led by Carmelo Anthony’s team-high 29 points, the Knicks (13-22) rose to the occasion and were a rude host to the champs. LeBron James tallied a game-high 32 points for the Heat (27-9), but the nationally televised prime-time matchup was all about Anthony and co.
Andrea Bargnani added 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while Amar’e Stoudemire was stellar off the bench in notching 14 points and 11 rebounds. His point tally was a game high for reserves, while his rebounds were a game high. Stoudemire filled in admirably on the blocks as he logged 26 minutes, mainly because Woodson adjusted his rotation due to illness and injuries.
“STAT was great. Probably the first time we played him a lot down the stretch. He really helped us defensively and offensively on the blocks and he gave us what we asked of him,” Woodson said. “Having him available like that was very positive for this win.”
The Heat were also banged up, missing the services of starting point guard Mario Chalmers and valuable reserve Shane Battier, but unlike their counterparts from New York, their reserves failed to answer the bell.
Shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who was a game-time decision, was about the only other effective Heat player.
The Knicks got very little else out of their reserves, as Stoudemire was the only one on the bench to play more than 15 minutes. Rookies Tim Hardaway Jr. (five points in 14 minutes) and Toure Murry (three points in 10 minutes) were the only others to see action. Shortening the rotation was a shocking move by Woodson considering reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith, was healthy and available. But Woodson decided to bypass the troublesome shooting guard, perhaps as punishment for the mercurial guard’s latest transgressions.
Smith, who has been under fire this season for both his recent shoelace antics and his on-court struggles, was a healthy scratch as he received the dreaded “DNP-CD” (did not play, coach’s decision). The change in Smith’s status was the first disciplinary action taken by Woodson, who used words like “unprofessional” and “immature” on Wednesday to describe Smith’s behavior. Woodson, who noted during his pregame press conference he would no longer publicly address “J.R.’s issues,” has seemingly lost faith in a guy he once vociferously defended. The writing on the wall was evident when Woodson bypassed the erratic shooting guard and instead inserted the rookies during Smith’s usual time slot in the rotation.
Following the game, all Woodson wanted to discuss was how the Knicks beat the Heat, as he gave rather terse answers any time Smith’s name was mentioned.
“I’m not going to comment on J.R.; [I’m] just talking about the game,” Woodson said. “The game was a great game for our ball club. We’re starting to play better and that’s what I liked tonight from our team.”
Woodson acknowledged he liked the balance on offense, the doggedness on defense and the Knicks’ 16-4 run that overlapped the third and fourth quarters.
“We’re starting to figure it out a little defensively. I thought our traps and rotations were good [and] we took it upon ourselves to not allow plays at the rim,” said Woodson. “And offensively we had good pace, balance and ball movement and guys made shots.”
“We moved the ball well,” said Stoudemire. “And I think [point guard] Raymond [Felton] did a phenomenal job at moving the ball around and being patient in the offense. That was the key to our win.”
The power forward beamed when talking about the team’s collective IQ — something that has come into question all season due to some ill-fated shots and brain-freeze moments.
“We played smart basketball and took what the defense gave us,” said Stoudemire. “Miami is an aggressive defense with their traps, but when Bargnani started hitting in the first half, it opened things up for us underneath in the second half. He set the tone early, and he played great defensively as well. [He] played great at both ends. We all did.”
The Knicks were in such synch that even James seemed rattled at times, as the league’s best player committed a game-high six turnovers. Conversely, as a team, the Knicks had only 10 giveaways — led by Felton, who boasted a 14-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Knicks are now on a roll, as they’ve won four of their last five games — including a season-high three straight. They’ve also beaten the Heat in four of the last five regular season matchups.
Knicks notes …
» Smith claimed he never spoke to Woodson prior to the game about any change in his playing status and that he fully expected to play. He also admitted he’s “not sure” if he’s part of the Knicks’ future anymore and added he felt the coaching staff was “misleading” him. He later softened that stance after a moment of contemplation and said “it’s rocking the boat” if he complained any further.
» The Knicks routinely get worked on the boards, so it was a pleasant sight for sore Garden-faithful eyes to see their team hammer an opponent on the glass. The Knicks had a 43-32 advantage over the Heat, led by Stoudemire’s game-high 11 rebounds. He wasn’t alone, as Iman Shumpert added nine and Anthony tallied eight. Miami, meanwhile, didn’t have anyone record double-digit rebounds and were also beaten on the offensive glass, 10-4, with forward Chris Bosh registering a team-high nine caroms.
» Stoudemire said he didn’t even notice the extra minutes Thursday night and didn’t feel any extra burden on his often-weary knees, adding he can repeat that workload on Saturday night against the 76ers if necessary.
“I’ve been feeling great all year,” said Stoudemire. “This was a big game and we needed this, but my body has been feeling great all year.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.