Chants of "Beat the Heat" along with some colorful words directed at LeBron James filled the Garden Thursday night. The crowd gave the undermanned Knicks some extra adrenaline, but James made the most noise when the game was on the line.
He scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, silencing the fans and putting the Knicks on the brink of elimination. James' MVP-type performance opened up a close game and gave the Heat an 87-70 win and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
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"Our defense was solid throughout the first half and pretty much throughout the whole game until the fourth quarter, and then we gave in," coach Mike Woodson said. "We succumbed to what they were doing from an offensive standpoint."
Carmelo Anthony was ineffective most of the night. He scored 22 points but shot 7-for-23 as the Knicks succumbed to history, too, setting an NBA record with their 13th consecutive playoff loss. They hope to snap that skid and extend the series Sunday in Game 4 at the Garden.
"We believe," Anthony said. "Our heads are high, man. Our confidence is still high. We're not walking around, moping around, hanging our heads. I'm not allowing us to do that."
Playing without Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks battled and led 40-29 with 1:44 left in the first half after outscoring the Heat 30-10, including an 18-1 spurt. But the Knicks ran out of players and gas and didn't have the talent to match the Heat, which got 20 points from Dwyane Wade and 19 from Mario Chalmers.
The Knicks mustered only 30 points, shot 8-for-34 and were outscored by 28 in the final 25:43. James beat the Knicks himself in the fourth quarter, 17-14. Steve Novak, starting for Stoudemire, was scoreless in 22:16.
"We have a short rotation right now, but that's what it is," said Tyson Chandler, who had 10 points and 15 rebounds. "We fought hard. They just beat us."
The Knicks needed more from Anthony, especially without Stoudemire. He was on the bench with his left arm in a sling and a heavy bandage covering his hand from the cut he suffered after punching a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher after Monday's Game 2 loss in Miami.
With Stoudemire out, the Heat has continued to load up on Anthony. He's 22-for-64 in the series and was just 3-for-11 in the second half last night.
"I think they're just trying to make it hard for me, make my catches hard out there, beat me up as much as they can," Anthony said. "I heard the bench yelling, 'Keep beating him up, keep beating him up.' They throw everything at you. Shane Battier, LeBron."
James had a relatively quiet game until the fourth quarter. He had seven turnovers and four fouls and spent the last 7:23 of the third quarter on the bench.
That was a critical stretch. The score was tied when James left, but the Knicks made two field goals the rest of the quarter and trailed 58-56 after three. James returned and scored the first eight points of the fourth to make it a 10-point game.
"I just wanted to try and make plays to help our team win," James said.
Miami led 77-62 with 5:40 left, and the crowd started filing out. The Knicks were out of fight -- and now are one loss from another early exit.
"It's a tough one," Chandler said. "It's an uphill battle. But it's one that we have to go through. Obviously, no one wants to be in a hole 0-3 in the playoffs, especially against a tough team like this. But that's the way it is and we've got to keep fighting."