The Miami Heat took on the New York Knicks Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. In a hard-fought contest, Miami overcame a 16-point deficit and scratched out the 99-93 victory.
After an evenly matched first quarter, the Knicks really turned it on in the second. They outscored Miami 37-22 in the frame, finishing on a 17-5 run for a 14-point advantage at halftime.
But the Heat clamped down in the third quarter, cutting the margin to just four points in the first five minutes of the second half.
On the back of their stellar fourth-quarter defense and some timely hooping, Miami outscored the Knicks by 10 points in the final period and came away with their 14th straight win.
Miami entered Sunday with a 42-14 record, putting them six-and-a-half games ahead of the Knicks in the East.
The defeat bounced New York from second place in the conference, as they are now a half game behind the Indiana Pacers who face the Chicago Bulls Sunday night.
The Knicks had the advantage in the season series, having won the teams' previous two meetings, each by a 20-point margin. Miami will try to even the season series with New York on April 2.
Raymond Felton, PG Knicks: B-
After a very strong game on Friday night, Felton was held down in the first half, scoring just one point and turning the ball over twice. He did, however, have a pair of dimes, a steal and a block through two quarters.
Felton remained quiet until late in the fourth quarter, when he drove for consecutive layups to bring the Knicks within two points. Felton then committed a costly turnover on the next possession, his fourth of the game.
Though he had nine points, the fact that the starting point guard finished with only two assists is an indictment of New York's offensive schemes. As a team, they are dead last in the NBA in assists per game.
Mario Chalmers, PG Heat: C
Chalmers got off to a rough start, committing four first-half turnovers and three personal fouls to go with his six points. He took better care of the ball in the second half, though he failed to add to his six points.
While he did have four rebounds, he tallied only one assist, suggesting the mechanics of Miami's offense were concentrated elsewhere.
Dwyane Wade, SG Heat: A-
D-Wade did a little bit of everything in the first half, posting seven points, six assists and four boards.
He finished with 20 points and flirted with a triple-double (eight rebounds and a team-high eight dimes). The only blemish was his four turnovers.
Even though Wade's output seemed to come quietly, that's a familiar trend these days with the supernatural level that LeBron is playing at.
James White, SG Knicks: C-
"Flight" White was again in the starting lineup for this game, just as he was in Friday night's win over the Washington Wizards.
And yet again, he was merely a placeholder for sixth man J.R. Smith. Less than five minutes into the first quarter, White headed for the bench with just a turnover and three personal fouls to show for his efforts.
White missed the only shot he took and played under eight minutes despite starting.
LeBron James, SF Heat: A+
James scored 10 points in the first half, but he had all of Heat nation clutching their prayer beads in the third quarter.
He went up to catch an alley-oop and was contested by J.R. Smith. LeBron couldn't get a handle on the pass and then landed awkwardly. He remained lying on the court for about half a minute before getting up and gingerly pacing around under the basket.
Of course, LeBron remained in the game and made the next shot off the ensuing inbound pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, James knocked down consecutive three-pointers to knot the game at 79. He also had a big block on Tyson Chandler late in the fourth quarter followed by a tip-in to put Miami up by four.
It's no surprise here that LeBron was the player of the game, ending with 29 points, 11 boards, seven dimes and three steals in 43 minutes on the court.
Iman Shumpert, SF Knicks: C
Shumpert's struggles on offense continued, as he went 1-of-4 from the field in the first half. He also added three rebounds, two assists and two turnovers.
At least his defense is finally rounding into form as his legs progress to the level he was at last season.
Still, Shumpert had the worst rating of any Knicks player, finishing at minus-17.
Carmelo Anthony, PF Knicks: A
Anthony burned the Heat in the first half, racking up 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting and making his way to the free-throw line 12 times.
Miami keyed on Melo in the second half, limiting his easy offensive opportunities and making him struggle from the field in the third quarter, going just 1-of-7.
He finished with 32 points, but failed to make an impact on the rest of the stat sheet, dishing three assists and grabbing just two rebounds.
Udonis Haslem, PF Heat: C+
Haslem had a decent afternoon on the glass (six rebounds), but he was unable to offer much on offense. He played just 16 minutes as Shane Battier came off the bench and played nearly half of the game.
Anthony also victimized Haslem and the Heat early before they adjusted at the half.
Tyson Chandler, C Knicks: B
Chandler neared a double-double in this one, but he was again out-rebounded by 6'6" teammate J.R. Smith (12 to eight). Chandler shot efficiently from the field, scoring 10 points, and also added two steals and two blocks.
On a pivotal layup attempt, ABC replays appeared to show LeBron James grabbing Chandler by the shoulder as his shot was blocked. No foul was called, and the Heat stretched their two-point lead to the eventual winning margin.
Chris Bosh, C Heat: B
Bosh was cold from the field and non-existent on the glass. But after shooting just 1-of-6 in the first half, Bosh poured in 14 points to power Miami to the win. He also hit a big jump shot to put the Heat up by six points with just over a minute left.
Even though he grabbed just one rebound, he still turned in a very strong offensive second half.
J.R. Smith, SG Knicks: B+
Smith had another strong game bringing not just offense, but also creating steals and snatching rebounds. After putting up a career-high 12 boards on Friday against the Wizards, J.R. inexplicably pulled down another dozen versus Miami.
Smith also added 13 points, but those came on 5-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-14 from three-point range.
While he did get three steals, he evened it out by making three turnovers. One of those came on a bad pass in the game's final minute, as who else but LeBron James stole the ball and flushed down an emphatic dunk to cap the victory.
A better shooting night from Smith could have carried New York to victory.
Ray Allen, SG Heat: C+
Despite his seven first-half points, Ray Allen was the primary culprit for the Heat's slow start. Through two quarters, the Heat were minus-19 with him on the floor.
Allen finished up with the worst floor rating on the team. He chipped in seven points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Rest of Bench, Knicks: B+
Jason Kidd knocked down all four of his three-point attempts in the first half, after being just 5-of-41 from beyond the arc in his previous 10 games. Kidd finished with 14 points and the prospect of him finding his shot again will have Knicks fans very excited.
Amar'e Stoudemire offered some efficient scoring in this one, putting in a dozen points on 5-of-7 shooting. He also grabbed a pair of rebounds and committed two turnovers in his carefully managed 21 minutes.
Steve Novak was done in by Miami's excellent closeouts, struggling to get the open looks he needs to drain three-pointers. He missed all three of his shot attempts and finished with zero points.
Mike Woodson went with a nine-man rotation again for this contest, but the Knicks seemed a little gassed in the decisive final minutes as Miami pulled away, despite strong bench scoring from Kidd and Amar'e.
Rest of Bench, Heat: B
Not to be outdone by Jason Kidd, Shane Battier knocked down all four of his triples in the game.
He also brought his familiar brand of suffocating defense to this contest, but he saw limited time as he played under seven minutes in the first half.
Chris Andersen was working hard, though ABC announcer Jeff Van Gundy thought the "Birdman" looked exhausted through just 11 minutes of court time. His hard work did net him three rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Norris Cole contributed across multiple stat categories with four points, two boards, two dimes and a steal.
Rashard Lewis couldn't hit a shot, but he did bring some serviceable defense. He was also the only other member of the Heat aside from Ray Allen to finish with a negative rating for the afternoon.
But the Big Three came up huge on Sunday afternoon. Then all they needed was some hot shooting from Shane Battier to extend their impressive winning streak.