LeBron James dominates Knicks down the stretch
Another game, another signature moment for LeBron James, fresh off the best month of his career.
James, who already was on the list of great players to have had great games at Madison Square Garden, came up big again Sunday on the biggest of stages. And he did it with a flourish, with a single jaw-dropping, game-changing move that prompted stunned Knicks fans to stand in unison, grab their coats and head for the exits.
James sealed a franchise record-tying 14th consecutive win for the Heat when he darted in front of Carmelo Anthony to intercept J.R. Smith's careless crosscourt pass at midcourt. James then flew unchallenged for a righthanded jam with 23.6 seconds left that cemented a 99-93 victory over the Knicks.
"It was a gutsy win by our guys," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team trailed 59-45 at halftime.
No one was gutsier than James, who finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and held Anthony to four points in the fourth quarter.
In addition to the clinching steal and dunk, James made a huge play with four minutes left when he blocked Tyson Chandler's shot and finished the play at the other end with a putback for a 91-87 Miami lead.
"We gutted it out," James said.
James' fourth quarter was even more spectacular when you consider that he played all 12 minutes despite spending half a minute writhing in pain and clutching his left knee under the basket in the third quarter after trying to catch a lob pass and landing awkwardly. James later said the knee was sore but added that he never considered leaving the game.
"I couldn't have gotten him out in the fourth quarter, and if I would have tried, he would have strangled me," Spoelstra said. "His motor is limitless. He had to do it at both ends and take the challenge in the fourth quarter against the toughest cover in the league."
Anthony scored 32 points but had only four on 2-for-4 shooting in the final quarter. James said the goal when he took him was to just "make it tough" on Anthony.
The toughest moment came when James stepped in front of him to grab Smith's pass in the final minute. Anthony's body language almost mirrored that of every Knicks fan at the Garden. He just shook his head and bent over in frustration as James finished with the dunk.
"He didn't see me take off, and once he did see me, it was too late," James said of Smith's turnover.
The comeback victory in a game the Knicks once led by 16 was a big one for the Heat, which lost its two previous games against the Knicks this season, each time by 20 points. And it's clear that Miami believes it made a statement.
Said Dwyane Wade: "This is probably the most challenging win. For a team that beat us twice and to be able to get down and come back to win, it was great."