'Melo drops 50 on undermanned Heat
Carmelo Anthony released his final shot of the night then skipped backward, already knowing the outcome.
The shot was good.
For Anthony and the New York Knicks, the outcome was even better.
Relying entirely on jumpers, Anthony tied his career high with 50 points and the Knicks won their ninth straight game, topping the injury-depleted Miami Heat 102-90 on Wednesday night.
''I felt good tonight,'' Anthony said.
There was no arguing that.
Anthony finished 18 of 26 from the field, taking two dribbles to free himself from Shane Battier and make his last shot with 16.9 seconds remaining to get to 50 and send the Knicks' bench into hysterics. It was the third time he scored 50 in his career, and it came with Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers all sidelined by injuries.
''I think just from the start of the game, it's a feeling that you just have while you're out there on the court,'' Anthony said. ''Sometimes you get off to a good start and then you get cold the rest of the game, but tonight wasn't one of those cases.''
No, it was not.
He made his first seven shots, and the fact that he had 37 points before notching any other statistic of note - no rebounds, assists, steals or blocked shots until the third quarter - let everyone in the building know that he was all about a scoring spree.
And the Heat had no answers.
''It's an inopportune time to announce my candidacy for defensive player of the year,'' Battier said. ''Carmelo had a hell of a game. ... That's a game that drives the analytics guys crazy because he didn't attempt a shot within 15 feet of the basket. Most nights, we'll take that every single time. And he made a ton of shots. Made a ton of shots. And that's to his credit.''
Chris Bosh scored 23 points for Miami, which beat San Antonio on Sunday without James, Wade and Chalmers, but managed only 32 second-half points against the Knicks. Mike Miller scored 18, Ray Allen finished with 16 and Norris Cole had 14 for the Heat, whose 17-game home winning streak was snapped.
The Knicks beat the Heat in three of their four regular-season matchups. They likely would not meet again before the Eastern Conference finals.
''I don't think that team will lack confidence against anybody,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''That's just the nature of who they are.''
Miami's magic number for clinching home-court throughout the NBA playoffs remained at five, and the Heat already have the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference wrapped up. The Knicks now lead Brooklyn by five games in the race for the Atlantic Division title.
It was only Miami's second loss in its last 31 games.
Much of the star power was taken out of the equation more than eight hours before game time, when the Heat announced that James, Wade and Chalmers would not play. James has a sore hamstring, and Wade and Chalmers are dealing with ankle sprains.
All are listed as day-to-day.
''The No. 1 thing, obviously, is try to get as healthy as we can,'' Spoelstra said. ''Obviously, that's a priority. From there, we have time to still try to improve - not just stay in rhythm, but to improve, and also get these guys an opportunity that haven't been getting minutes to play in these meaningful minutes. We didn't script San Antonio or this like this to happen, but that's what this league is about. It's unpredictable.''
Anthony surely did not mind their absences.
He made three shots, a combined 65 feet of swished jumpers, in the game's first 2:17 as the Knicks ran out to an 8-0 lead. Plenty of blue-and-orange shirts in the Miami crowd roared, and the early indications were that Anthony was on his way to a monster night and the Knicks were on their way to a blowout victory.
That assessment was half-right.
''Unbelievable,'' Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ''He just refused to let us lose.''
Anthony came in averaging 27.5 points and was practically there by halftime with 27 on 9-for-12 shooting - a display the Knicks absolutely needed, since Miami more than held its own without James, Wade and Chalmers.
After trailing by as many as nine early, Miami actually roared back to lead 58-50 at the half. Miller and Cole combined for 30 at the break; Miller's 18 were five more than he had scored in any game this season.
Anthony - who had one more field goal than every other Knick managed, combined, in the first 24 minutes - didn't exactly cool off at halftime. By the time the third quarter was 4 minutes old, Anthony was up to 37 points.
''We actually played pretty good defense on him,'' Miller said.
Anthony's first rebound came with 7:02 left in the third, and his first assist came as the clock was expiring to end the period, setting up Steve Novak for a 3-pointer from the right corner that allowed New York to take a 78-76 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Anthony actually went 10 minutes without scoring, then made two jumpers - the second a 3-pointer - 40 seconds apart, giving the Knicks a 95-88 lead with 3:32 left.
The Heat had tied the game twice in the fourth, but never led after Novak's 3 that closed the third.
''My thing is to try to be aggressive, make shots,'' Anthony said. ''When you make shots, it makes the game so much easier.''
NOTES: It was the fourth time in 25 career games, including playoffs, that Anthony eclipsed the 40-point mark against the Heat. ... Wade and James looked on intently as the Heat showed a video to promote the looming playoffs after the third quarter. Wade shimmied his shoulders a bit afterward, and James started to nod at one of the final images - his sideline dance in the final seconds of Game 5's title-clinching win over Oklahoma City last June. ... Rapper Flo Rida was at the game, as was actor Andy Garcia and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. ... Of the Knicks' nine remaining games, six are against likely playoff-bound teams.