Outplayed Anthony tries to stay optimistic

Carmelo Anthony #7 (L) of the New York

Carmelo Anthony #7 (L) of the New York Knicks is defended by LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat. (April 28, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

MIAMI

The final seconds of the third quarter were bleeding away, and LeBron James seemed to sense they would be his last of the day. That left just enough time to make one last statement for Carmelo Anthony to remember him by.

So not far from South Beach, the talented Heat forward dribbled patiently near the top of the arc while his Knicks counterpart guarded him closely. Then he calmly rose to sink a three-point basket with 1.4 seconds left.

No mas.

The mostly white-clad fans at American Airlines Arena erupted in celebration of their team's 34-point lead. James strolled off in the direction of the bench to enjoy the ensuing quarter of garbage time.

Final score: Heat 100, Knicks 67.

Final scoring statistics: 32 points, 10-for-14 shooting for James; 11, 3-for-15 for Anthony.

A couple of things before we go on: When James is at his best, he appears to be a man among boys no matter who opposes him, and Anthony wasn't the only Knick to suffer by comparison Saturday.

And Anthony is likely to perform better Monday in Game 2 of the teams' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series because he is too good to be that bad again.

But none of that made it easier to swallow that the Knicks' best player was decisively outplayed by the Heat's biggest star -- and by a dismayingly wide margin.

For the Knicks to make this interesting -- or at least to win a postseason game for the first time since 11 years ago Sunday-- Anthony is going to have to narrow the gap. And he knows it.

"I've got to do a lot of things better,'' said Anthony, who had 10 rebounds, three assists and four turnovers. "The shot wasn't falling, I turned the ball over. It was just one of those days I didn't play well. For me, I have to make some major adjustments come Monday.''

The most important adjustment for Anthony and the Knicks is countering a Miami defense that dared others to beat it and focused intense attention on Anthony.

The Heat deployed James and Shane Battier, two excellent defenders, on him. They fronted him. They doubled him. They generally discombobulated him in every way. Anthony said he was not expecting all that.

"Fronting me, sending me down to the bigs, showing me two or three guys at a time,'' he said. "It was an adjustment they made. Now it's time to make our adjustment.''

Anthony's tone was matter-of-fact, and he went as far as to suggest "the fun starts now.'' But if there were an easy solution, the Knicks would not be the huge underdogs they are.

It would be nice if Amar'e Stoudemire pitched in with more than nine points, or if Tyson Chandler's lingering flu went away, or if the backcourt were not an injury-riddled mess. But this is the role Anthony chose when he arrived 14 months ago, and he will be the man who bears primary responsibility to fix things.

No matter how much he has reason to be, Anthony insisted he is not worried. "We try not to let the frustration set in,'' he said. "We understand it's a marathon race. This is a long series.

"We did some things we wish we wouldn't have done. We turned the ball over 20-something times. They got to the free-throw line at will. Those are things we have to correct, and we will do that.''

The Knicks came apart during a 32-2 run -- not a typo! -- by the Heat, a stretch low-lighted by technical fouls against Chandler, coach Mike Woodson and Anthony.

Anthony didn't understand why he was called for a tech, insisting he was not throwing the ball at referee Danny Crawford, an apparent misunderstanding that led to the call. But so it went for Anthony and the Knicks on a day when everything went wrong. And a day on which everything went right for James.

"It's a bad feeling, but we're not going to get down on ourselves,'' Anthony said. "This game happened, it's over, we learn from it and get back Monday.''

The Knicks had better hope they are a quick study, or Monday will be their last road game of the season.

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