March 4, 2013

Miami Heat recovers from slow start to beat Knicks, extend streak to 14

LeBron James scored 29 points and made a late steal to clinch the victory as the Heat tied a franchise mark with its 14th win in a row.

Sooner or later, LeBron James will have to admit he’s a superhuman spaceman put on this planet to dominate basketball games.

On Sunday, James used his bionic legs to avoid serious injury, then relied on his skills of clairvoyance to win the game. The extraordinary effort allowed the Heat to dominate the Knicks in the second half in a 99-93 victory at Madison Square Garden that extended Miami’s win streak to 14 games.

The streak is now tied for the all-time franchise record, established during the 2004-05 season. The Heat can break the mark Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Fourteen in a row feels like we are playing good ball right now,” James said. “We are winning at all facets of the game. We want to continue it.”

With the Heat ahead by four points, James locked up the victory when he anticipated and stole a pass by Knicks guard J.R. Smith with 25.8 seconds left. James tipped the pass up the court and finished the play with a thunderous breakaway dunk. James finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals a block in over 42 minutes of work.

“His IQ is very high, so he saw what J.R. was doing and anticipated,” Knicks guard Jason Kidd said of James. “He got two big steals in that fourth quarter. [Smith’s] trying to make the right play, trying to get the ball to [Carmelo Anthony] and unfortunately he has one of the best basketball players on this planet playing and he came up with two big steals.”

James played every minute of the second half and remained in the game even after a nasty fall in the third quarter during which he appeared to hyperextend his left leg.

“His motor is limitless, and I don’t want to take it for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t want to just assume that he can play 40-plus minutes but he had to do it on both ends.

“I couldn’t get him out in the fourth quarter. If I would have tried, he probably would have strangled me.”

James guarded Anthony in the fourth quarter, limiting the league’s leading scorer to four points in the period.

“[James] had to take the challenge in the fourth quarter against the toughest cover in the league and create a lot of plays for us on the other end,” Spoelstra said.

After trailing 59-45 at halftime, the Heat outscored the Knicks 54-34 in the second half. New York had three more points in the second quarter (37) than it did the third and fourth quarters combined.

“That’s usually how we win tight games,” James said. “We get stops, we get shots and we don’t turn the ball over. We’re the best shooting team in this league as far as the numbers go and we’re up in three-pointers as well, so when we get shots and don’t turn the ball over we’re very good.”

The Heat shot 46.4 percent, well under its season average of 49.6 percent, but limited the Knicks to 27.6 percent shooting from three-point range. New York was 8 of 29 from distance.

“Our guys showed some more mental toughness and resolve in the second half,” Spoelstra said.

Dwyane Wade had 20 points, going 8 of 16 from the field. He also had eight rebounds and eight assists. Afterward, he said beating the Knicks at Madison Square Garden was the best victory of the winning streak.

“When you are on a win streak you have to find many ways to win ball games,” Wade said. “This was probably the most thrilling and challenging. For a team that has beaten us twice and had the lead, for us to come back is great.

Miami trailed by as many as 16 in the first half.

Chris Bosh added 16 points for Miami and Shane Battier had 12 points, going 4 of 4 from three-point range.

Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points. He was 9 of 19 from the field and, like James, played the entire second half. Off the bench, Kidd had 14 points, Amare Stoudemire 12 and Smith 13.

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