In a decisive thrashing of LeBron James and the Miami Heat Thursday night, the New York Knicks certainly didn't seem to miss Carmelo Anthony. With brilliant ball movement and deadly perimeter shooting, the Knicks handily dispatched the Heat on their home floor, dropping the defending champs by a score of 112-92.
The loss was the worst home defeat for the Heat since James took his talents to South Beach.
Raymond Felton led the Knicks in place of Anthony, who sat out with a lacerated finger. The Knicks guard scored an impressive 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range.
James was spectacular again for the Heat, but like his triple-double against the Washington Wizards, LeBron's phenomenal performance was wasted in a loss.
The blowout win assured that the Knicks would retain the best record in the Eastern Conference at 14-4. The Heat, losers of two in a row for the first time this year, fell to 12-5.
If ever there were doubts about New York's legitimacy as a title contender, this dominant display should put them to rest.
For the Heat, who outwardly shrugged off a shocking loss to the lowly Wizards in their last game, there are now very real questions about their makeup, effort and strategic decisions.
The league is sure to be buzzing about this one, so let's get things started by grading the individual performances in this marquee matchup.
Raymond Felton, New York Knicks: A
With 'Melo out, the Knicks had to get scoring from somebody. Felton certainly did his best to impersonate New York's offensive alpha dog, getting up 20 shots on the night.
Felton was the Knicks' offensive focal point all game long, but he provided a particular spark in the third quarter with a pair of three-point buckets that helped turn a halftime tie into the blowout it eventually would become.
Going forward, if Felton can provide more nights like this, the Knicks offense will go from "very good" to "scary."
He finished with 27 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat: D
Mario Chalmers exited Miami's last game in the second quarter with a jammed left ring finger, but he suited up against the Knicks.
The Heat point guard never looked quite right, though, as he managed just seven points on the night while tallying twice as many fouls (four) as made field goals (two).
He picked up his fourth foul with seven minutes left in the third quarter, moments after he missed an uncontested breakaway layup. After that sequence, Chalmers was a complete non-factor in the contest.
In addition to his own struggles, Chalmers didn't do much to slow down Felton, either. He'll want to forget this one in a hurry.
Jason Kidd, New York Knicks: B
Jason Kidd played a solid game, harassing both Wade and Chalmers while hitting a few open threes and generally playing smart basketball. The savvy vet moved the ball brilliantly on offense, which was a huge factor in the Knicks' highly effective three-point shooting attack.
Kidd finished with 11 points and four assists.
And, of course, Kidd did the things he always does: he tipped passes, committed smart fouls and played good team defense.
Plus-minus can be a misleading statistic, especially if it comes from just one game, but the fact that Kidd led the Knicks with a plus-31, while Wade finished with a Heat-worst minus-33 says a lot about how the night's SG matchup went.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: D
Wade hit an early three-point bucket, but struggled from the floor overall, hitting just 3-of-13 from the field.
In what's becoming a disturbing trend, Wade had repeated trouble beating his man off the dribble, continually putting himself in tough positions. As a result, he forced up a handful of contested floaters and even got caught up in the air with no place to go more than once.
His four turnovers were the most of any Heat player.
It's no newsflash, but Wade hasn't looked much like himself this year, particularly in the athleticism department. A step slow and more earthbound than ever, Miami's No. 2 option didn't provide nearly enough support for yet another tremendous outing by LeBron James.
If the Dwyane Wade we're seeing now is the same one that the Heat take into the postseason, it'll suddenly be much harder to imagine a repeat title performance by Miami.
Ronnie Brewer, New York Knicks: C-
When your only directive is to slow down the best player on the planet, you're not really expected to score much. Brewer drew the unenviable assignment of checking LeBron James, so he gets a pass on his goose egg in the scoring column.
LeBron James, Miami Heat: A+
LeBron sprinted out of the gates against the Knicks after posting the most casual triple-double in history during the Heat's disappointing loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Instead of falling into his recent habit of facilitating early and taking over late, James put up 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half.
Yet again, though, James was practically on his own.
Because James is capable of making the spectacular look easy, it's tempting to ask more of him. But realistically, demanding James to bear a heavier load when he's routinely leading his team in every statistical category seems unreasonable.
James finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
None of the blame for this loss rests with James, who is quite simply playing better than any human being on earth. If there's a way for him to do even more, he'll figure it out. But what the Heat really need is for someone, anyone, to step up and help him out.
Kurt Thomas, New York Knicks: C-
The ancient Kurt Thomas replaced Carmelo Anthony in the Knicks starting lineup, and it looked like the 40-year-old power forward had designs on turning back the clock in the early going. But after Thomas' four-point, four-rebound first quarter, Father Time caught up to him.
Thomas ended up totaling just 11 minutes in the game.
Maybe it was past his bedtime.
Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat: C+
Getting the start at power forward for the first time this season, Udonis Haslem started strong, posting six points and three rebounds in the first quarter.
His pace slowed significantly from that point on, but his final line of 10 points and seven rebounds certainly stood out positively in comparison to the rest of Miami's underperforming starters.
If the Heat do have plans to feature a more conventional lineup, Haslem is clearly a better option than Rashard Lewis, who hasn't provided much of anything in his three starts this year.
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks: B+
Chandler made most of his contributions on the defensive end, as usual. Aside from holding Chirs Bosh to one of the worst performances of his career, Chandler also provided plenty in the box score.
Last season's Defensive Player of the Year finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, totally outproducing his counterpart in the middle.
If Chandler looks like a center you can win a championship with, that's because he is. This was a vintage performance from him.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: D-
It was an ugly night for Chris Bosh, who struggled mightily against the defensive tandem of Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace. The Heat center certainly made an effort to draw New York's bigs away from the basket, but his jumper simply wasn't falling.
Bosh finished with an ugly shooting line, making just 3-of-12 from the field. Even worse, he wasn't a factor on defense or on the boards.
If Bosh can't be the floor-stretching shooter in Miami's small lineup, there's no reason for opposing teams to take their more conventional centers off the floor.
Credit Chandler for playing the terrific defense for which he's known, but Bosh pulled a disappearing act in a game when his team desperately needed him.
J.R. Smith, New York Knicks: C
After hitting a dramatic game-winner the night before, J.R. Smith struggled to get anything to fall against Miami.
Fortunately for Smith, things picked up after a scoreless first half. He finished with 13 points, four assists and six rebounds.
Smith didn't have to do much to outperform Ray Allen in the sixth-man department, but his contributions were just enough to earn an average grade here.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat: C-
Allen gave the Heat almost nothing off the bench, scoring just nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. Most notably, he failed to hit a three-point basket all night. In games where Wade and Bosh struggle to score, Allen simply can't pull disappearing acts like this.
If No. 34 isn't hitting threes, there's really no justification for his presence on the court. Defensively, the Knicks guards attacked Allen all night, something most intelligent teams have done throughout the season.
Ray gets some praise for contributing six rebounds on an off shooting night, but that's not what he's out there to do.
He'll have to straighten things out from beyond the arc in a hurry, especially since nobody else in a Heat uniform seems particularly interested in providing any kind of scoring support for LeBron.
New York Knicks: A
Led by Rasheed Wallace and Steve Novak, the Knicks bench provided excellent support for a starting five that had just one breakout scorer in Raymond Felton.
Wallace had 12 points and did a brilliant job policing the paint in relief of Tyson Chandler.
Steve Novak did what Steve Novak does: rain jumpers. The sharpshooter provided terrific spacing and scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Of course, he also hit four threes.
More than anything, the Knicks proved that their depth is a true asset. Without Carmelo Anthony, New York put up 112 points, largely because it got 57 points from its bench. Going forward, the Knicks bench will continue to be one of their biggest strengths.
Miami Heat: D-
Miami got a couple of bench contributors back into the rotation, as Shane Battier and Norris Cole returned from injury, but neither of those two factored into this one. Battier committed four fouls in under nine minutes of court time and Cole went scoreless.
And it didn't get much better for the rest of Miami's bench.
Mike Miller and Joel Anthony were the only other Heat players to log minutes, and neither reached double figures.