Knicks take down Heat with Smith on the bench
NEW YORK (AP) They don't look like the lowly losers of last month. The New York Knicks are playing as if it's last season - when they even had mighty Miami's number.
Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points, Andrea Bargnani had 19, and the Knicks beat the Heat 102-92 on Thursday night for their season-high third straight victory.
"You can tell it's different than one month ago," Bargnani said. "Our faces are different, our body language is different."
Raymond Felton had 13 points and 14 assists for the Knicks, who seized control with a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and beat the Heat for the fourth time in five meetings over the last two seasons.
New York was second to Miami in the Eastern Conference last season when it won the series 3-1, but there was little reason to suggest until recently the Knicks were ready to compete with the NBA champions this season. New York is 13-22 but has won four of five in 2014, with victories over San Antonio and Miami - last season's NBA finalists.
"It wasn't going to last all season like that," Felton said. "We were just going through a slump, now I feel like we're out of it."
With Tyson Chandler out sick and J.R. Smith stuck on the bench as an apparent punishment, Amare Stoudemire had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
LeBron James scored 32 points for the Heat, who played without injured starters Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier and didn't get much from Chris Bosh, who was held to six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"All I know about this game is they outplayed us and they earned that win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points but missed all six free throws after sitting out the morning shootaround as Miami had its three-game winning streak snapped.
"I only missed six," Wade said. "I didn't miss 20. It wasn't that damn bad."
Smith didn't play after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year's latest trouble, a $50,000 fine when he attempted to untie an opponent's sneaker for the second straight game, after he'd been warned by the NBA not to do it again. Knicks coach Mike Woodson criticized Smith's behavior during a radio interview Wednesday but said before the game he wouldn't discuss Smith any longer.
But the benching did the speaking for him. Smith often stood far away from the huddle during timeouts, but his teammates sure didn't miss him on the court.
Woodson again wouldn't comment after the game, but no Knicks player, not even Smith, seemed to know he wouldn't play.
"I didn't know anything about it," Smith said. "I expected to do the same thing I always do. I did my same routine and it didn't happen."
Though the roster is different and the results are way worse, Woodson said before the game he believed the things that worked so well against the Heat last season could still do so, and for this night he was right as New York shot 54 percent from the field.
"We're moving forward," Anthony said. "We're taking strides. We're getting better. We're learning from our mistakes we've made in the past and we're going to continue to build on this and see what happens."
The Knicks surged into the lead late in the third. Bargnani answered back quickly after James blew by him for a dunk, converting a three-point play to tie it and ignite a 9-0 spurt that helped New York lead 75-71 entering the final 12 minutes.
New York ran off seven in a row to open the fourth, making it 82-71 on Stoudemire's basket, and there was never really a run for the Heat, who couldn't get closer than five from there.
"They played a great game," James said. "They made some timely shots."
The Heat were opening a six-game trip, but the start of it couldn't be more convenient. They are just a few miles away Friday to visit Brooklyn in a game in which players from both teams will wear nicknames on their jerseys.
But the best they can do is salvage a New York split, even after shooting 54 percent in this one.
Miami scored the final seven points of the first quarter to take a 27-21 lead. The Knicks scored 11 in a row early in the second, but Rashard Lewis made two 3-pointers from the corner in the final 1:11 to help the Heat grab a 48-43 halftime edge.
Notes: James played in his 800th career game. ... The Heat return to New York on Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl just across the river in New Jersey.