Playing their first playoff game at Madison Square Garden, Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade made it a memorable one.
After Wade scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter to help Miami take the lead for good, James scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Heat finish off an 87-70 win over the Knicks on Thursday, pushing New York to the brink of elimination from the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
"I just wanted to make plays to help our team win," James said. "We had a great supporting cast, and a great player like D-Wade, who made shots and kept us afloat, and our defense was tremendous in the third quarter."
Miami now leads the series 3-0, with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
Carmelo Anthony had 22 points to lead the Knicks, who led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but couldn't sustain their performance into the second half of a game they played without both Amare Stoudemire (lacerated hand) and Iman Shumpert (torn ACL and lateral meniscus).
"We couldn't find it," Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. "Their defense was awfully good. You have to give them credit. Third quarter, they fought. Offensively, we just didn't have it. We were so stagnant."
The Knicks took an early 4-1 lead on a pair of Baron Davis free throws and a Landry Fields putback, but the Heat responded with an 10-0 run, eventually taking a 19-10 lead with 4:07 left in the first quarter. The Knicks responded with a 9-0 run to close out the first quarter, leaving the teams tied through 12 minutes. New York proceeded to score the first five points of the second quarter, then continued the run, taking a 28-20 lead with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter. By the time Wade's layup made it 28-22, the Heat had been held without a field goal for 10:09.
Miami continued to battle back, cutting the lead to 28-27 behind three James free throws and a Mario Chalmers jumper, but Fields drilled a three and assisted on a J.R. Smith dunk to spark a 9-0 run. Trailing 40-29 with 1:44 left, Miami closed out the half on a 7-0 run, with Chris Bosh, James and Wade all connecting to cut the Knicks' lead to four at the half.
In the third quarter, the game of runs gave way to a tightly contested slugfest, with the Knicks shooting just 3 of 15 from the floor, but staying close with nine free throws in the frame. Still, the Heat was able to surge ahead behind Wade's 12 points in the quarter, taking a 58-56 lead into the final 12 minutes.
"It seems like we can't score the ball right now," said Anthony, who connected on just 7 of his 23 shots from the floor. "That is the toughest part right now. Tonight, we played phenomenal defense for most of the game."
James took over to open the fourth quarter, scoring eight consecutive points to give Miami a 66-56 lead with 10:37 remaining. The Knicks got back to within seven points on an Anthony jumper with 7:01 left, but a Wade layup and a pair of Chalmers threes put the Heat up by 15, allowing them to coast to the victory.
"It was a good team win," Miami head coach Erik Spolestra said. "Coaches like those kind of wins, where you are not necessarily playing well, and certain parts of the game were ugly. On the road, you like to see your team show some resiliency and toughness to get back into it, and guys made big plays in the second half."
The Knicks, who haven't won a home playoff game since April 22, 2001, are hoping to show some resiliency and toughness of their own when Game 4 tips off.
"We believe," Anthony said. "Our heads are high. Our confidence is still high. We are not moping around, hanging our heads. I am not allowing us to do that. We have a couple of days to get right, and Sunday is another chance to get out there and win a basketball game."
NOTES: Bosh did not arrive at Madison Square Garden until 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. He returned to Miami on Wednesday after learning that his wife, Adrienne, had gone into labor, and returned to New York after his son, Jackson, was born at 3 a.m. on Thursday morning....A day after becoming the first Knicks player to win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award, center Tyson Chandler blocked two shots in the first quarter, including a stuff of Udonis Haslem on the game's first possession....Former Knicks Bernard King, Earl Monroe, Larry Johnson and John Starks were in attendance for the game, as were New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, New York Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and New York Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese.