MIAMI (AP) - No blowout this time for the Miami Heat. They can beat the Knicks with a grind-it-out finish, too.
Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his season-high 40 points in the fourth quarter, LeBron James and Chris Bosh each finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat held off a late comeback to beat New York 106-98 on Tuesday night, Miami's 15th win in its last 16 games overall and its seventh straight over the Knicks.
Wade hit a step-back 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes left to stop one New York run, and James essentially sealed it by blowing past Danilo Gallinari for a layup and seven-point lead with 40 seconds remaining.
``My teammates did a great job, especially in the fourth, of looking for me,' said Wade, who scored 15 of Miami's 21 points in the last 8:30. ``Guys did a great job getting me the ball in my sweet spots and I was able to attack.'
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds for the Heat, who won by 22 in New York on Dec. 17 and led this one by 22 as well - then held off a big challenge down the stretch.
``I told the guys, a 22-point lead against the Knicks is similar to a seven- or eight-point game against a normal team,' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``They kept on coming ... and that's what they do.'
Amare Stoudemire scored 30 points for the Knicks, who lost for the fourth time in their last six games. Wilson Chandler scored 21 for New York, which got 15 from Raymond Felton, 13 from Gallinari and 11 from Toney Douglas.
``These guys are playing as well as anybody,' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said of the Heat before the game, ``if not the best.'
At times Tuesday, those words rang particularly true.
Stoudemire had a tip-in to make it 97-93 with 2:02 left, and Spoelstra drew a technical for arguing from referee David Guthrie that it should have been offensive interference. Felton hit the free throw and suddenly, it was a one-possession game.
Wade wasn't worried.
His 3-pointer made the lead six again, and about a minute later, he went to the floor to collect a key rebound. James went left and past Gallinari with ease on the ensuing possession, and Miami held on.
``If you do panic, you're probably going to lose,' Bosh said. ``To be honest with you, we've given up leads before. Everybody gives up leads. It's the NBA. It's nothing you can do to change it. ... We've been there before. You never panic. I don't care how bad it looks. You just keep playing basketball and stay the course.'
Wade had the highest point total for a Heat player this season - he had 39 against Utah on Nov. 10 - and the 29th time that the 2006 NBA finals MVP had put up at least 40 in a regular-season game.
And for the Heat, it was the 16th straight time they held an opponent under 100. They outrebounded New York 50-32, and put their 14th win of December in the books, tying a franchise record for any month.
``It took a few weeks, maybe a month, maybe a month-plus for us to feel comfortable with one another on the court,' James said. ``But we figured that out.'
Both teams play an up-tempo, get-out-and-go style, the Knicks coming in leading the NBA at nearly 108 points per game, the Heat averaging nearly 101.
So naturally, it was a 7-foot-3 guy who isn't exactly a speed demon who stole the early show.
By the time the game was 8 1/2 minutes old, Ilgauskas had 12 points - to Stoudemire's two - and nine rebounds. Everything was around the rim for Ilgauskas, who had only scored more than 12 points in one game this season, forget doing it in nary a few minutes against a legitimate MVP candidate in Stoudemire.
His spree helped Miami run out to a 34-15 lead late in the first, and that was all before Bosh even hit the scoring column.
``Just had bad energy,' said Knicks guard Landry Fields.
Stoudemire starting hitting his stride in the second quarter, getting nine points, but the Knicks never got within 10 even while Miami managed just one field goal in the first 5 minutes of the period. It was 53-40 Heat at the half, and things likely seemed comfortable to the standing-room-only crowd.
They were not.
``Tonight was a measuring stick game for us and we feel we played well despite the first quarter,' Stoudemire said.
The Knicks have scored 100 points or more in 12 of their last 14 games, their two losses to Miami the lone exceptions, and came out flying in the third quarter. Felton banged his knee near midcourt with 8 minutes left, recovered while keeping his dribble and threw an alley-oop pass to Chandler to get the Knicks within 57-49 - the closest New York had gotten since 4:01 remained in the opening period.
``They play at a different level, speed-wise, defensively,' D'Antoni said. ``And we didn't match it - but then in the second, third and fourth quarters we did our part. Everything had to go right.'
Felton hit a jumper 2 minutes later to cut the margin to 61-55, before Wade kick-started a Heat rally. A jumper from the left corner, followed by a gliding layup around Gallinari, restored Miami's double-digit lead, and the margin eventually reached 80-63 when James Jones hit three free throws with 32 seconds left in the third.
``As you guys can see,' Stoudemire said, ``we're getting better and it's a good sign for us.'
Better than Miami? Not on this night, thanks to Wade's big finish.
``He made big shot after big shot,' James said.
NOTES: Not even counting a defensive 3-second violation on the Knicks, there were six technicals called - Stoudemire, Shawne Williams and D'Antoni picking them up for the Knicks; Wade, Ilgauskas and Spoelstra getting whistled for Miami. ... The Knicks' 40 first-half points represented their second-worst total after 24 minutes this season. They had 38 against Atlanta Nov. 27, and had been under 50 only five times. ... Ever-devoted Knicks fan Spike Lee was courtside, as was pitcher Chris Volstad of the Florida Marlins. ... Spoelstra reiterated that getting sharpshooter Mike Miller back into the rotation will take up to three weeks.
The Associated Press News Service
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