MIAMI -- The Knicks were missing their top player and couldn't afford to have their second-best player be invisible most of the game. Not against the Heat in Dwyane Wade's return from an ankle injury.
The Knicks battled in their 99-89 loss to the Heat Friday night. But minus Carmelo Anthony for the first of two games so he can rest hand and foot injuries, they needed a big game from Amar'e Stoudemire and didn't get it, as he shot 5-for-14 and scored 12 points.
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Miami focused on Stoudemire defensively and forced him to become a passer. But the Knicks could have used a monster fourth quarter from him to pull off the upset on a night when Wade and LeBron James played brilliantly.
Stoudemire scored four points on back-to-back trips after re-entering with 7:25 left and the Knicks down five. But in the last 5:57, he was 0-for-1 with no points and a turnover.
"Every time I made a move, I saw three guys running toward me," Stoudemire said. "That was their game plan from the start -- double- and triple-teaming me all night.
"The first half, I just wanted to keep the ball moving. I wasn't too concerned about myself. The second half, I wanted to pretty much dominate the second half."
But it didn't happen, and the Knicks (7-12) took their eighth loss in the last nine games.
James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Wade, playing for the first time in seven games, added 28 points and five steals.
Athletically, the Knicks couldn't compete with the Heat, which put on a dunking exhibition with nine slams through three quarters. Three-point shooting kept the Knicks in the game, but eventually their shots stopped falling.
The Knicks started 14-for-28 from deep and finished 18-for-43. Bill Walker led the Knicks with 21 points off the bench, shooting 7-for-10 from three-point range.
"We played basketball," Mike D'Antoni said. "We tried to exploit what they gave us and I thought we did for a long time. We couldn't sustain it."
The Knicks' Steve Novak sank a three to tie the score at 74 early in the fourth quarter. But in the next 6:25, the Knicks were 2-for-9 with six turnovers and fell behind 91-79 on James' fast-break layup with 3:16 left.
"We definitely put our heart out there on the line," Stoudemire said. "We played phenomenal. The ball was moving, the floor was spaced. We played great. Just not well enough to win."
Notes & quotes: J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin remain on the Knicks' radar. Both went to China to play, so they can't join an NBA team until late February or early March. Smith tweeted Friday, "I wonder what it's like to play on Broadway?" A team source said the Knicks "are exploring all options." . . . D'Antoni said "the soonest" Baron Davis (herniated disc) can play is Tuesday against Detroit.