Miami 87, New York 70 (Miami leads 3-0)
LeBron James picked up his fourth foul with 7:22 left in the third quarter and left the game.
Offensive Ratings: Miami 103.4, New York 85.0
It turned out to be the best thing to happen to James and the Heat.
When LeBron returned to start the fourth quarter, Miami led by just two. Most importantly, he was well rested.
A fresh LeBron made a three-pointer on the final period's first possession, grabbed a defensive rebound and then rebounded two of his own misses before getting the putback. On Miami's third possession, he hit another three-pointer to complete a personal 8-0 that blew open a tight game.
The late effectiveness of LeBron, who ended up scoring 11 straight Miami points and 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, eased the tension of what had been a fairly poorly played game by the Heat's standards.
Whether due to mistakes (LeBron had eight turnovers) or looking for their own offense (Dwyane Wade had 20 points on 17 shots), Miami's perimeter players did a poor job of involving Chris Bosh (nine points on 3-of-5 shooting and 10 rebounds). When clicking on all cylinders, the Heat is much better, and Bosh plays a bigger role.
Against the Knicks, whose 13th straight playoff loss set an NBA record, that didn't matter.
With Amar'e Stoudemire out (no word on whether the fire extinguisher was available in case of emergency tonight) and Jeremy Lin not yet ready to return, Carmelo Anthony was the Knicks' unquestioned go-to scorer Thursday.
Predictably, Melo shot inefficiently, going 7-of-23 for 22 points. Also predictably, J.R. Smith emerged as New York's secondary scorer. But, aside from a spectacular dunk, he also struggled, finishing with 12 points on 18 shots.
Tyson Chandler, who received the Defensive Player of the Year award before the game, showed why he's such a valuable player. But as important as Chandler (10 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and two blocks) was, he couldn't provide the necessary scoring help.
Even with Miami keying on Melo and Smith, their teammates shot just 10-of-28.
Really, Mario Chalmers (19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers) played like the extra scorer New York needed. But for Miami, he was just a luxury.
Now the Heat has the luxury of a 3-0 advantage with little reason to believe the Knicks can push the series to a fifth game.
This free article is an example of the kind of content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.
Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.