Midway through the third quarter, the Heat engineered a 23-3 run to close out of the frame, one in which the Knicks offense just went stagnant. During the stretch, the team made one layup and 1-of-2 free-throw attempts, but missed five consecutive shots and opted not to play any sort of defense. They allowed LeBron James to rack up 12 of game-high 31 points during that run, while the Knicks mustered all of 14 in the frame as a team.
“It got out of hand,” said Carmelo Anthony, who scored 29 points but was one of only three Knicks to score in double figures on the night. “That’s where we lost the game."
From there, Miami's lead mushroomed to 87-64, and given the Knicks' energy level in the quarter the game was all but over. And with the loss, the Knicks dropped to 5.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, the Knicks have a chance to bounce back tonight when they host the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden, but the game will be over by the first quarter if they come out as empty and lethargic as they looked against the defending champions in that second half. The Warriors are 17-13 on the road and Steph Curry has proven he likes to play with the New York City spotlight shined upon him.
Anthony put forth yet another fantastic offensive performance, but had to watch from the sidelines as his squad dropped its fourth consecutive game and fell further back from playoff contention. Anthony said winning a championship is the most important factor when determining his plans in free agency this summer, so does an embarrassing loss to the Eastern Conference's elite play a factor.
“I think it’s pretty much numbing to him now,” J.R. Smith said. “The way things are going, that’s not good for anybody.”
Reports in the middle of the week indicated if the Knicks do indeed fall out of playoff contention during this three-game stretch, which included the Heat and continues with the Warriors and the Chicago Bulls, coach Mike Woodson's job is in jeopardy.
But Anthony is looking big picture. The Knicks have dropped five of six out since the All-Star Break concluded, not a promising beginning to a march to the playoffs.
“It’s been critical,” Anthony said. “As soon as we came off the break those games were critical as well. It just so happens with these, however many games we have left, all these games are critical. We have to approach these games . . . I don’t want to say life-or-death situation, but it is what it is. These are games we have to try to win.”