The Knicks have transformed themselves into a defensive-minded team since the hiring of Mike Woodson as their interim head coach. Unfortunately for the home team they needed just a little more offense, as they dropped a matinee matchup to the Heat, 93-85.
Sunday’s defensive effort was as mighty as the Knicks (31-29) had posted all season, but what set the Heat (42-17) apart was their ability to have more than one offensive option down the stretch to hold off a very competitive Knicks squad.
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 42 points, but he could’ve used some reinforcements. Anthony did all he could to keep the Knicks afloat, as he added nine rebounds and five assists on 14-of-27 shooting. J.R. Smith added 16 points off the bench, but outside of that duo, the Knicks didn’t have another player muster more than nine points.
Miami, meanwhile, rode the talents of their “Big 3” as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 73 points. The triumvirate started hot, scoring all of Miami’s first 20 points to give the Heat an early 11-point lead in the first quarter, and stayed hot throughout. James had 29 points, while Wade and Bosh added 28 points and 16 points, respectively. The trio wasn’t one-dimensional either as James also added 10 rebounds. Wade had nine rebounds and Bosh contributed a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Knicks were looking for a season-best 10th-straight home win, but could never separate themselves from the Heat, as their largest lead was only four points at the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Miami promptly went on 9-0 run to regain the momentum.
Miami then used an 18-3 run in the final seven minutes to close out a Knicks team that seemed to run on fumes down the stretch. Bosh crashed the boards over a noticeably ailing Tyson Chandler (knee), James and Wade nailed tough, acrobatic shots and Anthony’s supporting cast lacked the ability to pick up the slack for Melo, who was doubled most of the final six minutes of the game.
Anthony had 14 of his 22 first-half points in the opening quarter to make sure the Knicks didn’t suffer their customary matinee malaise. But the Heat held a 29-22 advantage after the first quarter ended. New York then clamped down on Miami, allowing just 17 points in the second quarter to get within two at the half, 46-44.
The third quarter was much like the first for the Knicks, however, as they went on a dry spell that lasted over 4:32 of the quarter. No one, not even Anthony, could get much going in the stanza, as the Heat took a slim 71-68 lead into the final quarter. From there, Miami clamped down on Anthony with traps and double teams, while daring the supporting cast to beat them – and they couldn’t.
The loss might not do much damage for the Knicks in terms of the playoff race, as they’ll most likely hover around the No. 7 or No. 8 seed, staving off an inconsistent Bucks team. The Heat, meanwhile, will enjoy this win, sweeping the season series, 3-0, in what looks like a preview of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami is currently the No. 2 seed, while the Knicks are sitting at No. 7.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.