For the first 24 minutes there, it appeared the New York Knicks were well on their way to a third 20-point victory over the Miami Heat this season.
Then the law of averages began to play a factor, and the Knicks’ offense fell off. Then the Heat gained a hot shooter of their own in Shane Battier, hitting all four of his three-point attempts to finish with 12 points in 23 minutes.
Then LeBron James happened, and everything started to fall in place. Scoring 12 of his 29 points in a decisive fourth quarter, LeBron led a second half charge that featured the Heat turning a 14-point halftime deficit into a 99-93 victory at Madison Square Garden.
In all, James finished with 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block to accompany those 29 points in nearly 43 minutes worth of action. He also held Carmelo Anthony to 3-of-11 shooting in the second half after the Knicks’ star went off for 24 points in the first half.
Anthony finished up with 32 points on 9-of-19 shooting with only three assists and two boards to show for his 42 minutes. He had 14 trips to the free throw line, but was disjointed throughout the second half. He was no longer getting shots in rhythm and couldn’t find a way to involve himself once his shots stopped falling.
Carmelo had four points on four shots in the fourth quarter. Miami outscored New York 54-34 in the second half. The Knicks had 37 points alone in the second quarter.
It turns out that shooting a bunch of three-pointers is only sustainable for two games. After combining for 37 three-pointers in the first two games, the Knicks converted only eight of their 29 three-point attempts. Jason Kidd led the way with 4-of-5 shooting from deep, every make in the first half, but found little support elsewhere.
J.R. Smith had three three-pointers, but needed a staggering 14 to do so. He finished with 13 points on 18 shots.
Obviously efficiency wasn’t too much of a concern for New York. They finished shooting 43 percent from the field, but the 28 percent shooting from deep was lethal to their success. There were simply too many jumpers that were being forced on account of the Heat’s stronger defense.
It was quite the difference from the second quarter. New York scored 37 points in the second frame, supported by Kidd’s four three-pointers and easy looks for Tyson Chandler. The Heat then raised the pressure in the second half and started out the third with a run that cut the Knicks’ 14-point halftime lead to four five minutes in. However, the Knicks answered with a flurry of shots to extend the lead back to 11.
After the Knicks built up a 74-63 lead, the Heat ended the quarter on a 10-3 run to cut the lead to four.
Battier and James would combine for three consecutive three-pointers to start the half. The Knicks would take back the lead on a Smith three-pointer with 6:20 remaining, but that was the last time they would see the lead. Miami would go on a 6-0 run to take back the lead for good.
While Raymond Felton ended up scoring the Knicks’ final six points, James and Chris Bosh would each hit a pair of shots to pace the Heat. LeBron ended up with the dagger on a fastbreak dunk after stealing a cross-court pass. At the time, the Heat were up by four with 30 seconds remaining.
Bosh struggled for most of the night, ending up with 16 points on 17 shots and one rebound, but came alive in the fourth. He hit a big jumper with 1:06 left that gave the Heat a six-point lead and a layup that gave the Heat a four-point lead earlier. He had six points in the final frame, making up for two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half.
Dwyane Wade also had himself another solid night, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
LeBron appeared to experience some pain after coming down wrong on his knee, but didn’t miss any time as a result. In fact, he hit a jumper a few seconds after getting hurt. There’s no word on if he’ll play the second night of the back-to-back.
The Heat extend their winning streak and tie the all-time franchise record of consecutive wins with 14. They can break the record with a win Monday night against a struggling and injury-ravaged Minnesota Timberwolves team.