The Heat had no chance. Not on this night. Not under these circumstances.
In New York’s first major event since Superstorm Sandy hit the area Monday, the Heat lost to the Knicks 104-84 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They bused in fans from areas still without power, and 19,033 Knicks fan filled the Garden with pent-up energy. The Knicks responded early and the game was over in the first 10 minutes.
Knicks fans screamed and celebrated at every opportunity, big, small or imagined. A badly missed three-point attempt by Chris Bosh set off an explosion of noise with 6:29 left in the game. “Air ball!” chanted the crowd. A few minutes later, with the game in hand, fans aimed their energy off the court and began chanting Rasheed Wallace’s name just because they wanted to see him in garbage time.
Bosh looked upward and shook his head in frustration after his air ball. The Heat trailed by 17 points at that point but fell behind by 20 when Steve Novak drained a three-pointer with 4:21 to play. The Knicks shot 19 of 36 from three-point range or 52.8 percent.
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Wallace, one of the veterans on the oldest team in NBA history, entered late and drilled a three-pointer with 41.7 seconds left. The building shook like the game had just started.
LeBron James led the Heat with 23 points but was outclassed by Olympic teammate Carmelo Anthony, who was draining three-pointers in the first quarter like he was back playing for the Team USA in London. Anthony had three three-pointers in the first period and finished the game with 30 points on 10-of-28 shooting.
The Knicks led 33-17 after the first quarter.
“The energy in the arena was amazing,” Wade said. “And you had the champs coming in as well. That was a great time to let the community and let the fans and families kind of forget about things for two and a half or three hours. We’re grateful as an organization to be a part of it.”
Wade, who planned to donate earnings from the game to the Sandy relief effort, finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He had five rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes. In the buildup to the game, Wade questioned the NBA’s decision to play the game considering the storm.
“They came out with a lot of energy and played exceptionally well,” Wade said. “We knew we were going to get hit early. Our job was just to stay in it as much as possible. Even when we were making a run offensively, they continued to keep going, hitting the offensive glass and getting all the little things that kept that lead.”
Bosh had 12 points. Starters Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers combined for five points.
The Knicks pulled ahead by 17 points early in the third quarter after an 8-2 run. Ronnie Brewer, he of the Chicago Bulls last season, began the burst with a three-pointer and, following an alley-oop from Wade to James, Jason Kidd kept momentum in the Knicks’ favor with a three-pointer of his own.
Kidd, now 39 years old, signed a three-year deal with the Knicks in the offseason. On Friday, he played like he might still have three more seasons left in his legs. Kidd, who finished with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting, started at shooting guard with Raymond Felton manning point. Brewer, another guard, started at small forward in Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s small-ball set. Anthony played power forward in place of the Amare Stoudemire, who was out with a knee injury, and Tyson Chandler, of course, was in the middle of the paint.
For the Knicks, the energy and emotion of the night was like a booster shot of adrenaline. Not only was it opening night in the Garden against the defending NBA champions, but also the feeling of solidarity in the wake of Sandy was palpable. Anthony addressed the crowd before the game and thanked them for coming. A moment of silence was held for victims of the storm.
“It’s devastating,” Kidd said. “People have no homes, no electricity, food, gasoline. So, for two hours to give people maybe time to not think about it, that was our job tonight and, hopefully, we did a good job with that.”