The Miami Heat proved their last time out they don’t necessarily need LeBron James hitting shots at his usual exceptional rate in order to pull out a win.
He could’ve used more help in the Heat’s first two meetings with the New York Knicks, though.
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Visiting Miami looks to match a franchise record with its 14th consecutive victory Sunday by avoiding another defeat to New York, which is seeking a fourth straight win.
Though James wound up scoring 14 fourth-quarter points and hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining, he connected on only 4 of 14 from the field and finished with 18 points as the Heat (42-14) beat Memphis 98-91 on Friday.
It marked a rare off night for the reigning MVP, who has hit less than 40 percent of his shots only twice this season. Dwyane Wade, who assisted on James’ late 3, finished with 22 points and Shane Battier added 14 off the bench.
“He’s the best player in the world,” said Chris Bosh, who scored 13 points. “But we have the best supporting cast.”
James did finish with 10 assists, though, after having 16 to go along with 40 points in Tuesday’s double-overtime win over Sacramento. Those marked his first back-to-back regular-season games with double-digit assists since Nov. 2 and 5, 2010.
“When I don’t make shots, I know I can do other things to help our team win,” James said. “It’s no surprise we’ve got guys stepping up. We’ve got guys who can do the small things, the big things and everything in between.”
The latest victory brought Miami to the verge of matching the franchise’s longest winning streak, set in 2004-05, though James said the team isn’t focusing on the run.
“Just win the next one. That’s all it’s about,” James said. “We’ve got the next one in New York and then we’ll go on from there.”
James is averaging 33.6 points in his last eight regular-season trips to Madison Square Garden, but he was held to 23 on Nov. 2 as the Knicks held Miami to its second-lowest total of the season in a 104-84 win.
Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points in that contest as the Knicks tied a season high with 19 3-pointers, but even his absence due to a finger injury in the next matchup didn’t prevent New York from earning another blowout victory over the Heat.
Raymond Felton scored 27 points – hitting six of the Knicks’ 18 3s – to help overcome 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from James in a 112-92 win at Miami as the rest of the Heat shot only 39.3 percent.
New York (35-20) heads into this contest having won three straight following a season-worst four-game skid after Anthony scored a game-high 30 points in Friday’s 96-88 victory at Washington.
“We will be prepared for Miami,” said Anthony, who has scored at least 30 points in three of his last four.
Felton added 23 points and J.R. Smith scored 13 off the bench for the Knicks, who outscored the Wizards 23-11 in the fourth quarter. They know they need to be better going forward, especially against surging Miami.
“We locked down in spurts, but still not where we really want to be,” Smith said. “We had the game won a few times, but let them back in it..”
The Knicks have won seven of nine at home, while the Heat have won their last five on the road by an average of 16.2 points.