LeBron gets help but pal Carmelo doesn't

Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat

Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced. (May 9, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

MIAMI -- Sometime this summer, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will sit down in New York or South Beach or maybe in London during the Olympics. And they will talk about this first-round playoff series.

For most of Wednesday night, however, there was little talk. And even less mercy. Though it took a good 18 minutes for James and the Heat to get their game going, they finally closed out their series with an injured but scrappy Knicks team, winning, 106-94, at AmericanAirlines Arena.

James and Anthony are friends and the best players on their respective teams. Yet James' supporting cast is so much stronger that it's hard to imagine that he will be able to do a whole lot of in-your-face gloating when the two get together.

For five games, James and Anthony went at each other hard. But at the end of the day, they ended up in each other's arms on the court, with James telling Anthony just how much the series had meant to him.

"It's always special whenever we're on the floor together," James said. "He's one of the best players we have in this league and one of the best competitors."

That's because James knows that the one big thing that separates his fate from Anthony's is his incredible surrounding cast. While the Knicks spent the night searching for an offensive weapon to complement Anthony's 35 points, the Heat had its most balanced scoring effort since it bulldozed the Knicks by 33 in Game 1. Six players had nine or more points. James led with 29, Dwyane Wade and the much-maligned Chris Bosh each had 19.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took a lot of heat for the way his team lost Game 4 at the Garden, putting the ball in Wade's hands, instead of James'. But Spoelstra did make one brilliant tactical decision in this series.

Spoelstra virtually erased Steve Novak from the box score, using mostly Wade, his former teammate at Marquette, to shut him down behind the three-point line. The Heat decided it could live with J.R. Smith chucking. It was Novak that the Heat was worried about because of how he could stretch defenses.

For the series, Novak totaled 12 points, shooting 4-for-9. Wednesday night he did not attempt a shot. This is the same guy who averaged 12.1 points in the final nine games of the season.

With Amar'e Stoudemire playing with a hurt hand, Smith channeling his inner John Starks Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals and Mike Bibby doing the best he could considering he was in mothballs only a few weeks ago, Anthony was left to carry the load on his own. To get his game-high 35 points, Anthony played 41:31 and shot 15-for-31.

James, by contrast, took only 16 shots (he made seven), scoring 29 points. He was both efficient and dominating. And he also was kind of nostalgic when looking back on what it had been like to play his good friend.

Said James: "I won't take this series for granted."

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