The Knicks’ J.R. Smith fired three-pointers at the Heat in record volume Sunday, even when the Heat put defensive stopper LeBron James on Smith.
And for 75 percent of game time Sunday, Smith kept the Heat from blowing out the Knicks.
But in that 25 percent, the third quarter, Smith hit zilch.
Meanwhile, the Heat kept getting consistent contributions from inconsistently deployed players such as Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Ray Allen; inconsistent contributions from consistently deployed Chris Bosh; and James being consistently James to take over the game.
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The most eye-catching statistics from the Heat’s 102-91 win were from Smith, who attempted an NBA-record 22 three-pointers and made a franchise record 10 to finish with a team-high 32 points. The single-game record was previously held by Damon Stoudemire, who hoisted 21 three-pointers on April 15, 2005.
However, those numbers eventually meant little for the Knicks, whose playoff hopes were seriously damaged by the loss.
The Knicks trail the Atlanta Hawks by three games in the loss column with only four game left in the regular season for the Knicks.
Although Smith started the game sizzling, he went 0 for 5 from the field in the third quarter and 0 for 4 from three-point range. In that quarter, the Heat outscored the Knicks by that final 11-point margin, 25-14.
On the other hand, the Heat went ahead of Indiana by a game for first place in the Eastern Conference behind James, who finished with a game-high 38 points. Bosh added 14 and Allen 12 for the Heat.
Haslem recorded 11 rebounds, including three offensive boards, which tied him with Alonzo Mourning for the most in Heat franchise history with 1,505. Allen’s four three-pointers answered those by Smith. And Battier battled New York scorer Carmelo Anthony into 4 of 17 from the field and 13 points.
“He’s going to have big moments for us in the playoffs,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Battier, one of his favorite players. “Does that mean it’s necessarily a consistent night-in, night-out rotation role, I don’t know. I can’t even attempt to answer that right now.”
The witty, erudite Battier — who played one second Friday against Minnesota and 5:31 last Wednesday against Milwaukee — said he laughed to himself when Spoelstra told him James would start the game defending Anthony then hand the sometimes unstoppable New York scorer over to Battier.
As they normally do, Battier and Anthony, who was playing with a sore shoulder, dished out hip checks and torso thumps to each other at a rate that, Battier said afterward, would have had both fouled out in five minutes if the referees called the game by the book.
“A game like [Sunday], I’m trying to prove myself to myself, and prove myself to my teammates,” Battier said. “That’s what keeps us all going. We’ve all been in that spot here unless you’re name is ‘James,’ ‘Wade,’ or ‘Bosh.’ But [that’s] the reason guys fight to stay in shape is this locker room. We owe it to each other.”
As for Smith, he said the record has “not really been a goal of mine. I saw opportunities and tried to take them. [I was feeling it] more so in the first half than in the second half.”
Spoelstra thought the Heat gave Smith open looks early and by the time it smothered him defensively with James, Smith couldn’t be shaken from his groove. New York zoomed to an early 16-3 lead as the Heat looked like it would rather be playing a Sunday brunch. James took the blame.
“I wasn’t awake yet. I had four turnovers in the first quarter,” James said. “We knew what the problem was — turnovers, and it started with me. That’s what I told the team. I took full responsibility for our start.”
Spoelstra said he wasn’t concerned about the turnovers, but “it was flummoxing. It was bizarre. No offense to the Knicks, they were absolutely unforced. The defensive breakdowns were really bizarre.”
The Heat responded to the early deficit in the first quarter with a 12-2 run. This being a rivalry that’s sweetened only from bile acid to vinegar over the last generation, the angry energy in the building grew. Haslem versus New York’s Amare Stoudemire under the hoop, James sending Knicks defenders to the floor with muscular shrugs, even Heat-on-Heat heat.
“We had some Miami Heat huddles,” Spoelstra said. “Verbally spitting at each other.”