Heat Check: LeBron James carries Miami past New York

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the first half against the New York Knicks.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI — The "MVP" chants got loud at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday afternoon and for good reason.

LeBron James scored 38 points, shooting 13 of 22 from the floor, to lead the Heat to a 102-91 victory against the New York Knicks.

The four-time league MVP, including the past two seasons with Miami, also had five rebounds and six assists as he tries for an individual three-peat while the two-time defending champions seek the same.

The Heat were without guard Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and center Greg Oden (back) for the sixth straight game. Center Chris Andersen didn’t play due to a knee injury.

Miami (53-23) moved a half game ahead of Indiana (53-24) in the race for the Eastern Conference top seed. The Pacers played host to Atlanta on Sunday night.

The Knicks scored seven straight points to cut a 13-point deficit to get within 92-85 with 4:41 remaining. New York got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

The Heat committed six turnovers after just 5:46 of play but then 10 overall after that.

Both teams had impact from beyond the arc. Miami hit 12 of 27 from 3-point territory; New York was 15 of 42.

J.R. Smith scored 32 points — hitting 10 of 20 from 3-point territory — to lead five Knicks starters in double-figure scoring. New York (33-45) fell 1 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the fight for the East’s final played spot.

THE TURNING POINT

The Heat held the Knicks to 14 third-quarter points and scored the period’s final seven points to go ahead 73-64.

Heat vs. Knicks

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

Again it was James, who scored 22 points in the second half.

STAT OF THE GAME

New York’s J.R. Smith sank a team-record 10 of 20 from 3-point range.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Heat will play the Brooklyn Nets in the fifth straight home game on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

You can follow Charlie McCarthy on Twitter @mccarthy_chas or email him at mac1763@bellsouth.net.