The New York Knicks, they were all about the threes. The Miami Heat, they welcomed back No. 3.
LeBron James scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade — he of that No. 3 jersey — scored 28 in his return from a sprained right ankle, and the Heat topped the three-point-obsessed Knicks 99-89 on Friday night. Chris Bosh scored 13 points and James finished with eight rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which plays host to Chicago on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
”Real nice to be back,” Wade said. ”Felt great. Felt great.”
Bill Walker scored 21 points for New York, which took 43 shots from three-point range, the most in the NBA this season and a total that had the Knicks flirting with Dallas’ NBA record of 49 set in 1996. The Knicks connected on 18 from beyond the arc, Walker making seven of them.
Toney Douglas scored 16 points, Landry Fields had 14 and Amar’e Stoudemire finished with 12 for New York, which tried more threes than twos (41).
”We shot a lot of threes, but we did hit a bunch of them, which kept us in there,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”We just couldn’t sustain it all the way through. Give them credit, they’re good.”
Wade shot 11 for 19 from the field in his return, after missing six games with the ankle issue, plus putting up five steals, four assists and two blocks. The Heat — who’ve won eight of nine games without Wade so far this season — were outscored 54-6 from three-point range, but held the Knicks to 36 percent shooting and only 18 points in the final quarter.
”It’s a nice welcome back for that young kid, No. 3,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
So, while the Heat were healthier, the Knicks were ailing. New York played without Carmelo Anthony, who expects to miss at least two more games while dealing with ankle, thumb and wrist problems. D’Antoni said Anthony wouldn’t return before Tuesday, so barring a change of plans that would rule him out of New York’s game at Houston on Saturday.
”This was a game for us to win,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. ”We were right there. Just down the stretch they changed their coverages. We had them. … It was open and our game for the taking, but obviously they were the better team.”
Wade and James went on a highlight display in the first quarter, setting each other up for dunks in the opening minutes and combining for five slams in Miami’s first seven field goals. Wade showed no rust from his layoff, scoring eight points in the first nine minutes.
Miami went to the rim. The Knicks stayed outside — way outside.
D’Antoni said before the game that the Knicks simply had to manufacture more offense. Hence, the game plan: shoot threes, and shoot them in bunches.
Of New York’s first 33 shots, 19 were from three-point range. That’s right: The Knicks had exactly two two-pointers in the first 15-plus minutes. Over a stretch of nearly six minutes in the first half, the Knicks had 13 consecutive three-point attempts, nothing inside the arc.
Desperate times, desperate measures, perhaps.
By halftime, the Knicks had tried 23 from long range — the most in the NBA this season and the most ever in a first half against Miami.
”We treated everybody as Ray Allen,” Spoelstra said, referring to the Boston guard who is widely considered the league’s best spot-up three-point shooter. ”That’s what we kept on saying. That is Ray Allen out there. That’s how they had to be treated, with that kind of respect. Make them put it on the floor.”
Walker’s season high had been 15 points. He got there early in the third quarter on Friday, part of a wild personal burst in which he scored nine points in 69 seconds to give the Knicks a 62-58 lead. He connected on three three-pointers, banking in the last one from 27 feet, talking animatedly to no one in particular after each one.
The Knicks were so committed to the three-pointer that on one possession midway through the second half, the 7-foot Chandler had the 6-foot-4 Wade posted up and kicked the ball to Walker for a corner three anyway. A few moments later, Chandler had Wade alone in the post again, no one else within about three feet of them, and still didn’t get the ball for what likely would have been an easy score or at least trip to the foul line.
By the time the Heat made their first three-pointer of the night late in the third quarter, New York had made 14 — a surreal 42-point discrepancy.
New York simply had no answer for Wade and James.
”I felt good enough,” Wade said.
Wade missed in the lane with seven minutes left, but tipped in his own rebound for a seven-point lead, Miami’s largest of the night. About two minutes later, Bosh got the ball to James in transition as Wade called for a lob, which James perfectly provided for a two-handed dunk and an 88-79 edge that left the Heat firmly in control.
”If he’s putting on a uniform,” James said, ”I expect greatness out of him.”
NOTES: Celebrities were everywhere, especially from the baseball world. Alex Rodriguez sat courtside with Heat CEO Nick Arison, while Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and one of his former players, Miguel Cabrera — soon to be Detroit’s third baseman — chatted at halftime. Also in the crowd was former Knicks coach and current Florida International boss Isiah Thomas. … Miami PG Norris Cole was bloodied after getting struck near his left eye in the first half. He returned to play. … Chandler was back in the building for the first time since helping Dallas win the NBA title in Miami in June. ”Good memories and good vibes,” said Chandler, who was staying in the same hotel and ate breakfast Friday in the same spot he did during the Mavs’ run last season.