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Heat avenge losses to Knicks, extend win streak to 14

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- LeBron James raced in front of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony in the final seconds, stealing a pass and streaking up court as Anthony's head dropped.

Anthony knew what the rest of the Knicks and their fans at Madison Square Garden did at that point in the final seconds Sunday -- the Miami Heat had finally beaten them this year.

James' steal and dunk, complete with a stare into the crowd at the Garden, capped Miami's 99-93 win, after the Heat's two earlier 20-point losses to the team hoping to challenge it in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The victory gave the Heat a franchise-record tying 14-game win streak and came only after Miami was in danger of a third blowout at the hands of the Knicks. The Heat trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before rallying in the second.

James led Miami with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, finishing strong and escaping after a scary collision with the Knicks' J.R. Smith midway through the third quarter. James landed hard and needed help getting up. He was limping a bit but able to remain in the game after injuring his left knee. He said afterward that the injury concerned him, but he expected to be able to play in the next game.

"We felt like this is one of our better wins of the season," James said. "Under the circumstances we went through tonight; a little bit of adversity. We were down double digits. ... For us to stay in there and come back to win the game, it was good for us.

"I was concerned, but I had a doctor look at it," James added of his knee. "I will be all right. It might be a little worse the next day. Hopefully, I believe, I will be in the lineup tomorrow."

Dwyane Wade had 20 points and eight assists for Miami. Chris Bosh added 16 points for the Heat (43-14), all but two coming in the second half.

Anthony, who left the game with an injury late in the second quarter but returned to start the third, led the Knicks (35-21) with 32 points as New York's three-game win streak was snapped. Anthony later said he hyperextended his right arm but that it didn't affect him, though he scored just eight points in the second half. He said he was all right after getting treatment.

Amar'e Stoudemire had 12 points for New York in 21 minutes but didn't play down the stretch. Asked about sitting in crunch time, Stoudemire, who has adapted to coming off the bench, said, "Well, my max is 30 minutes (physically), so we'll see how it goes. Coach's decision. Whenever my number's called, I'll be ready."

Jason Kidd had 14 points for the Knicks on four 3-pointers, a resurgence for the veteran point guard who had scored 16 points combined in his last seven games. But Kidd managed just two points after halftime and the Knicks struggled down the stretch with four turnovers in the fourth quarter.

"We had two crucial turnovers, which is uncharacteristic of the way we have been playing," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "In crunch time, we turned it over and they made us pay for it. They are a great team and you have to do everything right to beat that team."

After the Knicks dominated the second quarter to build a double-digit lead, the teams bore down for a tense fourth quarter, with the game going down to the wire.

The Knicks were within 97-93 when James stole the pass from Smith and scored on the dunk with 25 seconds left to seal the game.

Miami earned a small cushion earlier in the quarter after trailing most of the game, again thanks to James. James blocked Knicks center Tyson Chandler's shot, then scored on a leaping putback down the other end for a 91-87 lead with 4:05 left. It was Miami's biggest lead since late in the first quarter.

The Heat pushed it to a six-point lead, 97-91 with 1:06 left, when Bosh hit a jumper to follow James' drive right past Smith on Miami's previous possession.

"He's playing at a very high level right now," Anthony said of James, who by most accounts has far surpassed Anthony as the favorite to win MVP honors this season. "Miami's playing at a high level. ... He made some big plays towards the end. They still play off each other three ways. We never knew where it was going."

With the Heat down 77-73 after the third quarter, James hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth, strutting his way downcourt to boos after the second one tied it 79-79 with 10:04 remaining.

A minute-and-a-half later, Shane Battier gave the Heat their first lead in more than two full quarters, hitting his fourth 3-pointer to put Miami up 82-81 with 8:33 left.

Trailing by 14 at the half, Miami opened the third quarter with a 14-4 spurt to close the gap. Bosh, held to two points in the first half, scored eight during the stretch, and his free throw brought Miami within 63-59 with 6:52 left in the third.

The Knicks, though, answered with a 7-0 run to go up 70-59. But after Stoudemire again gave the Knicks an 11-point lead at 76-65 with four straight points, including a crowd-pleasing slam off a sweet assist from Kidd, the Heat again whittled the lead down. Miami reeled off an 8-1 run to end the quarter.

The Knicks took a 59-45 halftime lead as Kidd hit four 3-pointers after struggling for an extended period recently. The 39-year-old Kidd had not hit a 3-pointer in his past three games but helped spark New York after coming off the bench for the second straight game.

NOTES: James said he was focused on the team and not next year's slam dunk contest in response to a question about Magic Johnson's offer of $1 million to the dunk contest winner if James participates next year. Johnson had made the offer via ESPN on Friday. James, who has been putting on dunk exhibitions in pregame warm-ups in Miami, said "right now, I'm so focused on what we're doing as a team. All-Star weekend is so far away. I'm not really thinking about that right now. It's entertaining to him so ... " Knicks center Marcus Camby, who hasn't played since Jan. 10 because of a foot injury, dressed for the Knicks but did not play. ... Miami forward Juwan Howard, signed to a 10-day contract Saturday, was with the team but did not play.
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