MIAMI - LeBron James didn't have his superstar teammate to help him Sunday afternoon, but J.R. Smith didn't have his, either -- or a conscience, for that matter.
Carmelo Anthony played but couldn't have been more invisible in a game the Knicks needed to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
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Playing with a strained right shoulder, Anthony said he felt as if he had "a dead arm" and no strength. He shot 4-for-17 from the field, scored only 13 points and didn't take a shot or score a point in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' 102-91 loss to the Heat.
In the battle for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot, the Knicks (33-45) dropped two games behind Atlanta (34-42). Even if the Knicks win their final four games, Atlanta -- which holds the tiebreaker advantage -- would earn the final playoff spot by going 3-3.
"It's just bad timing," Anthony said. "Knowing our situation, we're trying to fight for a playoff spot, and knowing I can't be myself at this moment, that's the frustrating part."
Smith scored 32 points and helped keep the Knicks in the game with his three-point shooting. He set a franchise record with 10 three-pointers and established an NBA mark by launching 22 of them.
In the fourth quarter, Smith attempted 10 three-pointers and 12 shots total. The rest of the Knicks took nine shots. Smith attempted seven of the Knicks' last eight shots and finished 11-for-28 overall.
His mentality in the fourth quarter? "Trying to score the basketball. We were struggling scoring," said Smith, who has shot 24-for-50 from three-point range (and 0-0 from the free-throw line) and scored 88 points in the last three games.
James was brilliant, leading Miami (53-23) with 38 points, six assists and five rebounds. He carried the load with Dwyane Wade out because of a strained hamstring.
The Heat also was missing valuable reserve Chris Andersen (knee soreness) and Greg Oden (back). Miami played small, but instead of looking to establish an inside game, the Knicks continued trying to beat the Heat from the perimeter. The Knicks shot 15-for-42 from three-point range.
"We had a chance to win the game," Amar'e Stoudemire (12 points) said. "They went small. We shot threes. We didn't quite take advantage of our size inside."
The Knicks are off until they play at Toronto on Friday. After that, their three remaining games are against Chicago, at Brooklyn and at home against the Raptors. The Knicks know they have to win out to at least give themselves a chance to sneak into the playoffs.
"Our fate is almost in Atlanta's hands," Anthony said. "We got to watch this week and hope and pray that they lose some games and we got to win some basketball games. That's frustrating knowing that my fate is in somebody else's hands."
This was a game the Knicks, who went ahead 16-3 less than three minutes into the game, needed after Friday's one-point loss to Washington. But they made bad decisions throughout.
With the Heat up 70-64, the Knicks had the ball out of bounds with 13.3 seconds remaining and the shot clock off. Instead of holding for a last shot, Anthony attempted a quick shot with 10.4 seconds left. James grabbed the rebound and took it end-to-end for a three-point play.
The Heat then scored on five of its first six possessions of the fourth quarter and went ahead 85-70 on Ray Allen's three-pointer with 8:51 left. The Knicks cut it to 92-85 on Raymond Felton's layup with 4:41 to go and had a chance to cut it to four, but Iman Shumpert missed a three-pointer.
Smith's three-pointer made it 94-88 with 3:05 left, and after a three-pointer by the Heat's Mario Chalmers, Smith hit his final three-pointer to cut Miami's lead to 97-91 with 1:51 left.
The Knicks needed a stop, but Chris Bosh was open up top and hit a three-pointer to give Miami a 100-91 lead with 1:32 to go. On the Knicks' next possession, Smith missed two three-point tries and Miami rebounded the second.
"After getting off to a good start and building a double-digit lead, we didn't have much," Mike Woodson said. "I thought our intentions were great. We just couldn't finish it."