Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James each made strong cases for their MVP candidacies in entirely different ways as the Knicks knocked off the Heat, 102-90, Tuesday night.
While Anthony was busy shredding Miami's defense for a career-high tying 50 points, James was further cementing his MVP status from the bench. James missed his second-straight game due to a hamstring injury and the void was felt greatly by a Heat squad that wilted down the stretch.
All-Star guard Dwyane Wade (ankle) also sat out – and starting point guard Mario Chalmers (knee) as well -- as the Knicks took full advantage of the undermanned Heat. New York has not only won nine straight games, a season-high, but they also improved to 10-2 with Kenyon Martin. The fiery backup center, who has filled in admirably for All-Star center Tyson Chandler, helped the Knicks’ bench outplay Miami’s reserves, 29-27 in points and 16-11 in rebounds. Conversely, the Heat fell to 31-3 when their own energetic and athletic backup center Chris Andersen plays, as he could only muster six points and one rebound.
It wasn't all rosy for the Knicks (47-26), however -- even as Chandler (neck) returned to the lineup after missing the previous nine games, because the Heat (58-16) battled for the better part of three and a half quarters to stay within striking distance. Chris Bosh led the Heat with 23 points, while backup guard Norris Cole added 14 points in place of Chalmers, and Ray Allen notched 16 points off the bench.
Ultimately, the Knicks used a 13-2 run that spanned most of the final eight minutes of regulation to put away the game.
What we learned ...
1. MIA stars missing in action.
Fans in attendance didn’t see James, Wade or Chalmers, and that lack of star power ultimately proved to be Miami's undoing. The supporting cast, led by Mike Miller, picked up the slack for the better part of three quarters, but in the end, the role players’ efforts weren’t enough. The Knicks took control of the game late, stifling Miller, who didn’t score in the second half after registering 18 points in the first half. Miller’s first-half production was the most points he’s scored since Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, but his shortcomings were put on full display once the Knicks shifted their focus to stopping him, as he didn’t have James or Wade to bail him out.
2. Anthony excoriates the Heat again
Anthony had 50 points, including 27 in the first half, as Heat forward Shane Battier will likely see the All-NBA forward in his nightmares for the foreseeable future. Anthony’s game-high tied a career high, as it was the third time in his illustrious career he reached that plateau. It certainly wasn’t piling on, though, as the Knicks needed every bit of his points.
3. Still living by the 3s.
The Knicks shot 14-of-27 from behind the arc, good for 51.9 percent, to offset a feisty Heat squad. Anthony knocked down a game-high seven 3-pointers – one less than the entire Heat roster -- while the Knicks also saw production from Iman Shumpert, who also knocked down three 3-pointers. J.R. Smith failed to match his hot scoring pace, by only tallying 14 points off the bench, but he managed to knock down a pair of 3-pointers as well.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.