Carmelo Anthony's explosion shows that the Heat's run to another title may not be so easy.
By CHRIS TOMASSONFS Florida
MIAMI — Allow us to interrupt the scheduling of the
Miami Heat championship parade to announce the following:
Maybe the journey won’t be as easy as many believe.
A quick look at the standings might make one think the Heat will walk all over the East in the postseason. At 58-16, they’ve already clinched the conference and have lapped foes to the tune of a 10.5-game lead.
But a closer look at the numbers shows the Heat this season are just 3-7 against their three fiercest East competitors:
New York (1-3), Indiana (1-2) and Chicago (1-2).
The latest win by the
Knicks over the Heat does carry an asterisk. Miami played without stars LeBron James (strained right hamstring) and Dwyane Wade (sprained right ankle) for the second straight game and point guard Mario Chalmers (sprained right ankle) for the third in a row and fell 102-90 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Still, no team likes getting shredded by an opposing player. New York forward Carmelo Anthony tied his career high with 50 points, scoring all of his field goals on jumpers on a night in which he went 18 of 26, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range.
Miami’s James and Wade might not have been around. But the Heat still had perimeter defensive stalwart Shane Battier, and he could do little against Anthony.
“Carmelo had a hell of a game,’’ Battier said. “That is a game that drives the analytics guys crazy. He didn’t attempt a shot within 15 feet of the basket. Most nights, we would take that every single time. He made a ton of shots. There were some we had poor rotations on and he had really clean looks and that was just breakdowns in our defense.’’
It would be easy for the Heat to throw this game out as simply one in which the Knicks got hot. But the problem is it already had happened two previous times this season.
Yes, both came way back in November and December, long before the Heat had a 27-game winning streak. But the Knicks did beat the Heat by 20 points twice and shot 37 of 80 in those games from 3-point range.
On Tuesday, the final digits were 14 of 27 from beyond the arc. The Knicks also had Iman Shumpert shoot 3 of 5 and J.R. Smith go 2 of 3, but the big star was Anthony.
“We were very successful against (the Heat) this regular season,’’ said Anthony, whose Knicks also had a 16-point lead March 3 against the Heat before falling 99-93 at home in a game that was during Miami’s 27-game run. “But the playoffs, if we meet up with them, we meet up with them. We’ll deal with that then. They’re not on our mind in this point in time.’’
But it’s no doubt on the mind of television executives. If the Heat and Knicks end up facing each other in the Eastern Conference finals in June, it could be a dream series.
Possible meetings by the Heat with the Pacers and Bulls might also not be too shabby. It’s all enough for Smith to believe the East playoffs won’t be a stroll through the meadow for Miami.
“I don’t think it’s a walk (for the Heat),’’ said Smith, whose Knicks fell behind 58-50 at halftime before walloping the weary Heat 52-32 in the second half. “They’re still going to have to come out and play. They haven’t had the best record against (the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls).’’
Even though they were shorthanded, there was some concern by the Heat with the way Anthony was drilling shots. Then again, perhaps he ended up making one too many.
With the clock winding down and the Knicks firmly in control at 100-90, they easily could taken a shot-clock violation. Instead, they made sure Anthony got the ball for a final shot at 50, and he got there on a 19-footer with 16.9 seconds left.
“I knew I was close to 50,’’ Anthony said. “But (guard Raymond Felton and center Tyson Chandler) were trying to tell me to come and get the ball. I was trying to get the game over with.’’
But the half-century mark was too temping, and Anthony let it fly. It was his first 50-point game with New York, having also gotten there with Denver in 2009-10 against the Knicks and in 2010-11 against Houston.
James and Wade weren’t available for comment after the game. So one only can wonder what they were thinking.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra shrugged off the Knicks going for a milestone. But he wasn’t too pleased to see New York again riddle the Heat with 3-point shooting.
“We’ll have to figure it out,’’ said Spoelstra, whose team did hold the Knicks to 8 of 29 long-range marksmanship in the March 3 win. “You don’t want to leave it just to chance like that, because they’re capable of these type of nights. We’ve got to do it better, do it harder. We might have to make some adjustments as well, if we see them (again)… They’ve handled us three times and you have to give them credit for that, because they’ve played extremely well in those games.’’
The Knicks (47-26) are percentage points ahead of the Pacers (48-27) for the No. 2 seed in the East. So it’s very possible they will see the Heat again.
As for Miami center Chris Bosh, who scored a team-high 23 points, he doesn’t sound too concerned if that were to happen.
“Everybody has confidence against us until we take it away and that’s just the nature of the beast,’’ said Bosh, who scored 17 of his points in the second half while guard Mike Miller carried the Miami load in the first half by getting all of his surprising 18 points. “They’re a good team. They beat us twice early. We had a good game in the Garden. (Tuesday), we were shorthanded but it was still a good game. They can feel like they have a chance, but I like our chances.’’