Mike Woodson took a stand and sat J.R. Smith, and then the Knicks made a statement against LeBron James and the Heat.
Playing one of their best games of the season, the undermanned Knicks knocked off the two-time defending champion Heat, 102-92, in front of a loud sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
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It was the Knicks' season-high third straight win and upped their record to 13-22. They're 4-1 in 2014.
"We're starting to believe in one another again," Carmelo Anthony said after leading the Knicks with 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists. "We're starting to trust each other again, communicate on the court. We're attacking from the jump ball. We're putting complete games together."
The undermanned Knicks did so Thursday night with a healthy Smith tied to the bench by Woodson, and with Tyson Chandler, Pablo Prigioni, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih unavailable because of illness or injury.
Woodson punished Smith, last year's Sixth Man of the Year, for untying Shawn Marion's sneaker Sunday in Dallas and then attempting to untie the sneaker of Detroit's Greg Monroe on Tuesday. The NBA fined Smith $50,000.
Smith, who has been fined twice by the NBA this season and was suspended the first five games for failing a drug test, said he expected to play. But he stood far away from team huddles and cheered for his teammates throughout the game.
"I am not talking about J.R," Woodson said. "If you want to talk about the game, let's talk about the game. The game was a great game for our ballclub. We are starting to play a little bit better and that is what I liked about our team."
Afterward, Smith said he isn't sure if his future is with the Knicks. "Honestly, I don't even know," Smith said. "At one point, I was for sure, and now it's rocking the boat. But it is what it is."
There's not a huge market for a shooting guard who is hitting 34.8 percent from the field and continues to get in trouble.
Anthony and Kenyon Martin came to Smith's defense and said the Knicks need him, although they didn't Thursday night.
Without Smith, the Knicks got balance and contributions from the eight guys who played. Andrea Bargnani scored 19 points. Amar'e Stoudemire had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Raymond Felton finished with 13 points and 14 assists, and Iman Shumpert scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
James scored 32 points, but he committed four of his six turnovers in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade had 23 points for Miami (27-9). "They played a great game," James said.
The Knicks used a 16-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to open an 82-71 lead and shot 11-for-16 from the field in the fourth.
After the Heat trimmed its 11-point deficit to 84-79 on Ray Allen's four-point play, Shumpert knocked down a three-pointer on the next trip.
James converted a three-point play that made it 90-84, but Felton answered with a three-pointer 18 seconds later. After another basket by James, Felton took a pass from Anthony and scored inside.
After back-to-back turnovers by James, Felton fed Anthony for a three-pointer that made it 98-86 with 2:19 left. Anthony matched James with eight points in the fourth quarter.
"When you're facing another great person, another great player, it's bound to elevate your game," Anthony said. "LeBron has something I want and I'm looking forward to that and always take that challenge of playing against the great players in this league."
James had two big dunks in the third quarter that created a buzz at the Garden, but the Knicks didn't let it take them out of their game. They hit five three-pointers in a 32-point third quarter that included rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. throwing down an offensive rebound over Allen.
The Knicks continued attacking in the fourth. Stoudemire had six points and five rebounds in crunch time, and his dunk with 1:05 left made it 100-89.
"It's just another win," Anthony said. "Yeah, it's a momentum-booster for us, a confidence-booster, but it's just another win for us."