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Wade slashes Knicks, 93-87; coy about free agency

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade dunks as the

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade dunks as the Knicks' Danilo Gallinari looks on during Miami's 93-87 win at Madison Square Garden. (December 25, 2009) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Sure, Dwyane Wade was being overly charitable when he called the Knicks "the hottest team in the league'' before he and the Heat faced them Friday at Madison Square Garden.

But there was no denying the home team's vastly improved mojo, 8-3 record in December and six-game home winning streak.

Then Wade took the floor and reminded everyone that no matter how relatively good the Knicks have looked, they continue to lack what the Heat has: an A-list star capable of taking over at will.

Wade made a series of big plays down the stretch, including a dramatic drive and dunk, and scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half to carry the Heat to a 93-87 victory.

What led to the change of fortunes?

"Something changed,'' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "His name is Dwyane Wade.''

Wade, who also had nine rebounds, five assists and four steals, said assistant coach David Fizdale told him after a timeout to "take us home.''

"At that moment, I decided it was time to take control,'' he said.

Still, these were not the Knicks Wade saw in a 115-93 blowout in Miami on opening night.

Wearing green and playing before an enthusiastic crowd in their first Christmas Day game since 2001, the Knicks made it interesting after falling behind 72-58 with 8:46 remaining and 81-71 with 3:29 to play on Wade's driving dunk.

It was 83-80 when Jermaine O'Neal's jump shot bounced up off the rim, against the backboard and into the basket to make it 85-80 with 51.9 seconds remaining.

Wilson Chandler badly missed a three-pointer at the other end, and the Knicks' threat was over.

Danilo Gallinari led the Knicks with 26 points, but he was 3-for-11 on three-pointers. Al Harrington was 0-for-7. The Knicks shot 5-for-28 on threes.

Where did Gallinari's long-range shot go? "I don't know,'' he said. "I think I left it somewhere.''

Like the Bobcats and Bulls before them this month, the Heat focused on taking away the Knicks' pick-and-roll plays and daring them to shoot from the perimeter. It worked.

It was not until 8:25 remained that the Knicks scored their 61st point, thus surpassing the team-record total Bernard King managed by himself 25 years to the day earlier.

The Knicks mostly did play well defensively, holding an opponent to fewer than 100 points for the ninth game in a row, their longest such streak since 2005.

"We're a totally different team from [starting] 1-9, and we're not going back that way,'' Harrington said. "You'll never see that team again.''

The same can be said for most of the current roster come 2010-11, of course. Speaking of which, what did potential free-agent-to-be Wade have to say regarding his interest in joining the Knicks?

Not much. Before the game, he said, "The summer of 2010 is so far away, you just have to wait and see.''

Could he see himself in New York?

"I'm here now,'' he cracked.

How about in a different uniform?

"I'm here now,'' he repeated. "It's cold, I'll tell you that.''

After the game, he said: "I don't ever think about the possibility of joining the Knicks. I think about the possibility of the summer. It's going to be a very tough summer for me to be in the position to think about what my future will be.''

On Friday, all that mattered was that he was among those wearing red in the present, and it made all the difference.

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