In the first two meetings between the Heat and Knicks this season, Miami had Carmelo Anthony figured out.
The Knicks’ leading scorer, who averages nearly 22 points per game, scored just 11 points in his first game against Miami and shot 6 of 16 from the floor in the second matchup.
For a Heat team that had beaten the Knicks eight straight times, this was a familiar scenario. During the winning streak, Anthony shot over 50 percent just once and was held to a 13-point, 23.5-percent shooting performance in April 2014.
But on Wednesday in Miami, Anthony looked as if he was the one with all the answers.
Anthony finished with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, his best performance since he went 12 of 16 against Utah in March 2011. Neither Luol Deng nor Gerald Green, who each hounded Anthony in the season’s early matchups, could slow his efficient night. As Dwyane Wade said after the game, this wasn’t an explosive, outrageous, in-your-face type of night from Anthony. He didn’t go off for 40 points, and he didn’t take over the game in the typical sense.
But that sort of efficiency is nearly impossible to account for during game preparation, Wade said.
“When Carmelo [Anthony] goes 9 for 12 and Robin Lopez goes 9 for 12,” Wade said, “you don’t game-plan for that because you don’t expect that.”
Knicks coach Derek Fisher lauded Anthony’s patience and ability to get his teammates involved. Anthony echoed that sentiment and attributed his success to film study and the way in which he managed double teams.
“It comes down to kind of watching film, watching games and understanding what that team’s gonna do,” Anthony said. “So it wasn’t about me kind of going out there and trying to get it all back in a couple plays and trying to take over the game. I just wanted to be patient out there, see what the other guys on my team had.”
Anthony’s performance was a far cry from his outputs in those two earlier games. On Nov. 23 in Miami, he shot 37.5 percent (6 of 16) and scored 21 points. Four days later in New York, he put up just 11 points on 30.8 percent (4 of 13) shooting.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said earlier Wednesday he couldn’t point to a reason for Miami’s prior success in shutting down Anthony. But after the game, Spoelstra knew why they couldn’t stop him.
“It felt and looked like we were playing in the mud,” Spoelstra said. “We just couldn’t generate the necessary energy defensively that we’re accustomed to doing, and they carved us up.”
New York kicked out of double teams and played more efficient basketball than earlier in the season, when the Heat held the Knicks to shooting percentages of 32.2 and 37.6 percent. The Knicks shot well above their 22nd-ranked, 43.5 percent field-goal average and finished 55.7 percent from the field.
With that, Miami’s three-game streak of holding its opponents’ field-goal percentage under 40 percent came to an end.
And so did Anthony’s struggles against the Heat.