NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony gave the New York Knicks the primary scorer they had been lacking for a couple of games, but Dwyane Wade’s own return provided the difference.
After missing two games with back spasms, Anthony scored a game-high 31 points, but a more efficient Wade (who had missed the Heat’s prior seven games due to a hamstring injury) finished with a team-high 27 points and stole the show down the stretch of the Miami Heat’s 86-79 win at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
After Anthony kept the Knicks (4-14) fairly close by making his first four shots of the second half, Wade upstaged him by converting his first six shots of the final quarter to help Miami (9-7) hold off New York, which dug out of a 16-point, second-quarter hole to close within two points, with 1:24 remaining.
The reeling Knicks, which trailed the entire way, lost their fourth straight game and their 11th in their past 13 contests, while completing the month of November a dismal 3-13. They also lost for the 59th time over the past two seasons in their 100th regular season game since winning their first division title in 2013.
Complementing Wade, forward Chris Bosh scored 20 points and drained a key 3-pointer (off of the last of Wade’s team-high five assists) to put Miami up, 82-77, with 1:07 left.
Forward Amar’e Stoudemire had 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in nearly 37 minutes off the bench, but New York shot just 35.2 percent from the floor, needing 16 more shots (88-72) than Miami to make one more field goal (31-30) than the Heat.
Similarly, Anthony matched Wade’s 11 made shots, but he took eight more (26-18).
Neither team shot well at the outset, with the Heat missing nine of its first 11 shots from the field, including all five 3-point attempts, and the Knicks misfiring on eight of their first nine shots, while falling behind, 10-2, after five minutes.
New York began to attack the basket, though, and on the strength of eight points in the paint, and quickly closed the gap to 12-10.
A 3-pointer by reserve guard Mario Chalmers (his only points), capped a 9-5 run which moved Miami ahead, 21-15, before the Heat settled for a 21-17 lead after the first quarter.
Reserve forward Josh McRoberts (seven points) scored his first points on a 3-pointer to cap a 10-2 run at the start of the second period, which gave Miami a 31-19 lead. Nearly four minutes later, a Bosh layup swelled that advantage to 37-21.
But after New York’s starting backcourt missed its first 10 shots, with point guard Jose Calderon (nine points, six assists, 10 rebounds) taking four of those, and shooting guard Iman Shumpert (six points) taking six, Shumpert made his next three shots on a dunk and a pair of 19-foot jumpers to spark a 13-5 half-closing spurt that brought the Knicks to within 42-34.
Anthony led all scorers with 15 first-half points and was only player to reach double figures in scoring for New York during the first half. He made seven of eight free throws, but the rest of his teammates took just one in the half. For the game, Miami took 11 more free throws (31-20) and made five more (19-14).
Regarding the health of his back, Anthony said after playing a game-high 41 minutes, “I still feel it, but not like I’ve felt it over the past couple of days. Just some tightness. I don’t know if it’s the spasm or not. It’s probably going to take a while to get it loosened up a little bit.”
Up six points, the Heat capped a 10-4 spurt when Bosh found Wade on a nice bounce pass, which Wade turned into an impressive 3-point play, to extend Miami’s lead to 52-40. But feeding off of the energy of an awakened crowd, the Knicks closed the third quarter on a 19-11 run, to climb within 63-59, going into the final quarter.
With the Heat leading by just two points, Wade scored 12 points to key a 14-6 run that gave Miami some breathing room, at 79-69, with 3:34 to go. The spurt ended with Wade hustling into the paint, before ripping a rebound out of Shumpert’s hands and scoring on a layup. On Miami’s next trip, Wade (who had half of his team’s 14 turnovers), made a tough fade-away jumper from a difficult angle along the left baseline.
Answering Wade’s heroics, the Knicks scored the next eight points (four by Anthony), and closed to within 79-77 on a tip-in that rolled around the rim a couple of times before falling through.
Down five points, Anthony missed a long 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining, and New York wouldn’t score again until Calderon made a driving layup with 9.3 seconds left.
The loss began a three-game homestand for the Knicks, who will host Brooklyn on Tuesday night and Cleveland on Thursday night before they hit the road for four of the subsequent five games.
Following their previous loss, a 27-point drubbing in Oklahoma City on Friday night, Stoudemire questioned the effort and intensity shown by some of his teammates.
Anthony claimed not to have heard those statements, and disagreed with the assessment.
“We still had a chance to win this basketball game,” he said. “For the most part, other than maybe one or two games thus far, this season, I think that we’re playing extremely hard. We’re trying to figure this thing out. Effort wasn’t a question. Tonight it came down to… not being able to execute at the end.
“When it turns around, it’s a great feeling. It’s just not a great feeling right now, when you’re actually going through [a losing stretch].”
Rookie head coach Derek Fisher concurred with Anthony’s take, pointing to execution rather than heart being the Knicks’ main problem.
“We put ourselves in position to possibly win the game, but we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch on the defensive end as well as the offensive end,” he said.
Fisher also noted blamed his club’s poor shooting from 3-point range (where New York missed its first nine attempts and finished just 3-for-24) on its desire to please the Garden crowd.
“As the momentum was turning, the emotion of the building, I thought, kind of got the best of us and we chucked up a few 3s in succession that I thought, added to that total,” he said.
The Knicks entered the game as the second-most accurate 3-point shooting team in the league, behind only the Heat, which only shot a pedestrian 30.4 percent (7-for-23) from beyond the arc.
“I think because of our struggles, guys are trying really hard, and to perform at an elite level, there has to be a level of relaxation, and poise and comfort,” Fisher added.
“Guys are pressing. I think that’s what it’s about. I don’t think that we don’t have guys that are not capable of shooting the basketball, but I think it’s more mental than physical right now. I think guys are wanting to win really bad and they’re frustrated.
“Some of that stress is in their shot right now… if a guy makes a mistake, you see it weighing on him so heavily, it’s as though the whole thing is on his shoulders.”
Well maybe better that than on the franchise player’s back, when that’s not healthy.