When the Miami Heat found themselves trailing by a 59-45 margin at the half in New York, it certainly looked like their 13-game winning streak was in serious jeopardy. Then? They dominated the second half by a 54-34 margin, and stole a road win by the final tally of 99-93. LeBron James was, as usual, the best player in the building, as the reigning MVP finished with 29 points (on 12-23 shooting), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals to lead the way for the Heat.
In the first half (and really, from the opening tip), the Knicks controlled the pace and energy of the game. They couldn’t seem to buy a three-pointer early (starting 1-7 from distance), but still stayed within a one-point deficit thanks to some high-energy plays. Then, in the second frame, New York exploded for 37 points, including a surprising 4-for-4 three-point binge from Jason Kidd. This was especially shocking because Kidd entered the game coming off of the worst shooting month of his entire career, where he shot 20% from the field, and entered the game having converted just 4 of his last 41 three-point attempts.
The second-quarter push from the Knicks was aided by an inordinate amount of turnovers from the Heat (12 in the opening half), and the Knicks were able to capitalize in a big way with 20 points off of those turnovers. In addition to Kidd, Carmelo Anthony was the star of the first half, finishing with 24 points (on eight field goal attempts) thanks to a 11-for-12 binge from the free throw line that included two, separate 3-shot fouls.
As the half approached, the Knicks exploded with a 17-3 run to extend the lead, before Miami coach Erik Spoelstra called a crucial timeout that resulted in a beautiful Wade-to-Lebron alley-oop to quell the run. This allowed Miami to keep within shouting distance (a 14-point margin) as the teams went into the locker room, but Miami’s run was on its way in the 3rd quarter.
Chris Bosh emerged from a woeful first half (1-6 FG, 2 points) to score 7 points in the first 3 minutes of the half, keying Miami’s run to cut the lead to four at 63-59. New York helped in allowing this advance by Miami by starting the half with 1-10 shooting (yikes), and it wasn’t until a quick 7-point run by the Knicks in the middle of the quarter that they “arrived” for the second half.
The biggest key (other than sheer execution) in the second-half for Miami came with their limiting of turnovers. After a hideous first half, the Heat committed just 2 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, and this greatly limited the easy baskets for a Knicks’ team that finished with just 34 second-half points. LeBron James (characteristically) made some of the biggest, most crucial plays of the game during the final push for Miami. LBJ converted back-to-back threes to finally complete the “comeback” by tying the game at 79-79 with 10:04 remaining, and he also provided the game-clincher with a awe-inspiring steal (of an errant JR Smith pass) and dunk to seal the game with 24 seconds remaining.
It was yet another insane performance from LeBron despite a slow start offensively.
Elsewhere for Miami, Dwyane Wade was tremendous all day, providing a “quiet” 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, and he seemed to attack at just the right moments. Chris Bosh had a lackluster (to say the least) day with just 16 points and a ghastly one rebound, but his early 3rd-quarter production was key to getting Miami back into the game. The real, unsung hero for Miami? Shane Battier, who played characteristically flawless defense, and converted all four of his three-point attempts. Battier entered the game shooting a crazy 63% from three over his past 10 games, and that number somehow rose after another brilliant shooting day.
For New York, they seemed to simply run out of gas in this one. Carmelo was fantastic through three quarters (28 points), but he went quiet in the fourth, and the first-half magic from Jason Kidd came to a shrieking halt in the second half. I thought JR Smith was an absolute liability for much of the day, as he shot 5-18 from the field, including fourteen three-point attempts (he made just three). When the easy baskets evaporated with a reduction in Miami turnovers, the New York offense simply didn’t execute, and that was a big culprit in the loss for the Knicks.
After a slow start for Miami, this was basically the team we all expect. They out-hustled the Knicks for the final 24 minutes, out-”talented” the Knicks with sheer dominance from LeBron and (occasionally) Wade, and out-executed in big spots with some creative play-calling (think back to the Wade/LeBron alley-oop out of a timeout). It’s tough to think that anyone in the Eastern Conference can beat a focused Miami team, and that fact was evident (again) during the second half.
At any rate, the entertainment level was extremely high throughout the contest, and when Carmelo and LeBron square off at a high-level, it is certainly fun to watch.