It’s not over yet, but combined with other results the 102-91 loss to the Miami Heat makes making the playoffs a very difficult goal to reach for the New York Knicks, having to withstand another huge night from LeBron James that made J.R. Smith catching fire from beyond the arc almost redundant.
After the game, James spoke of Smith making those shots as almost part of a gameplan. In the second half, he was the one “guarding” Smith most of the time, although it didn’t look like he was making the best of efforts to guard him. Smith finished with 10-of-22 from beyond the arc en route to 32 points. He set a new record for 3-point attempts and did an exceptional job on the catch and shoot with 9-of-17. Off the dribble was what made him miss, not to mention doing so poorly from inside the paint.
LeBron James had no Dwyane Wade and no backup big men with Chris Andersen out of action for this one. James has scored over 30 points in every game against the Knicks this season, and this time was no different as the Heat picked up their third consecutive win against New York, all by 11 points or more. James scored 38 points, and had his “Big & Strong” moment when he went to the rim and paid no mind to Tim Hardaway actually hanging off of him. James finished for the and-1 before flexing his muscle, showing that the Knicks’ guard had no chance of stopping him.
Carmelo Anthony has been playing injured and it clearly shows, no matter who the player is that’s guarding him. He was an awful 4-of-17 from the field for 13 points. He’s doing awfully over the last two games with 11.5 points, shooting 29% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc. In his current condition, he’s doing more harm than good, as it doesn’t seem to be reducing the number of time he shoots the ball.
Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn’t just bad in guarding James. His defense isn’t exactly a redeeming quality at this stage of his career, but his offense against the Heat in this game and all season long has been close to pathetic. He shot 0-of-7 from the field in this loss, which puts the Knicks once again two games behind the Hawks (who beat the Pacers). He is 2-of-22 from the field this season against Miami, and for most of the game looked like someone who would be of no help to his team.
James, who finished with 13-of-22 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc kept attacking the paint, finishing with 10-of-11 on shots close to the rim. It helped the Heat outscore the Knicks by 10 points in the paint during the second half. He had plenty of help from Mario Chalmers who is playing very well recently with 15 points. Chris Bosh scored 14 points and Ray Allen was shooting nicely from long range, hitting four 3-pointers en route to 12 points.
The Heat are on top of the Eastern Conference with a 53-23 record, one game ahead of the Pacers’ 53-25. The two teams still play each other once more before the end of the season, but it looks more and more difficult to imagine the Heat dropping this lead considering the form of all teams involved, which is remarkable after they’ve been trailing Indiana since pretty much the first week of the season.