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NBA-New York's Smith sits as team mates beat the Heat

Reuters

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Shoelace-tying prankster J.R. Smith took a seat on the bench and watched his New York Knicks team mates keep up their New Year's resolution by playing team basketball in a 102-92 victory over the NBA champion Miami Heat on Thursday.

Smith, last year's NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was fined $50,000 on Wednesday by the league for tying an opponent's sneaker laces during a free throw attempt in a repeat of an earlier incident for which he was warned.

The Knicks also took action on Thursday relegating Smith to the end of the bench, where he watched the home game in his sweats sitting next to the equipment manager.

In some ways, it looked like addition by subtraction at Madison Square Garden as New York moved the ball briskly, had five players score in double figures and dominated inside even without injured center Tyson Chandler to notch their fourth win in five games after a horrid 9-21 start.

Carmelo Anthony battled Heat leader LeBron James to a virtual standstill, scoring 29 points and hauling down eight rebounds, against 32 points and five boards for the reigning two-time NBA most valuable player.

"When you are facing another great player it is bound to elevate your game," said Anthony, a close friend of James.

"LeBron has something I want (a championship ring) and I am looking forward to that. I always look forward to playing against the great players in this league."

Miami slipped to 27-9.

Helping spark the Knicks were point guard Raymond Felton, who doled out 14 assists, and Amar'e Stoudemire, who was a force inside against the undersized Heat, pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds to go with 14 points on 7-for-12 inside shooting.

"Raymond Felton did a phenomenal job of moving the ball," said Stoudemire, who is coming back to fitness after battling knee and back problems. "He was patient with our offense and he moved the ball well. We played smart basketball."

Said Felton: "It has been a great year so far, 2013 is behind us and it is a new year."

Miami's Chris Bosh, who shot a woeful 3-for-10, said the Knicks were capable of overcoming their slow start.

"The East is wide open. It's not like they're a lot of games behind, they're right there. They'll be able to make a move.

"They have a lot of veteran guys and they know they can keep playing and salvage the season. They'll keep playing and we'll keep playing and there will be a post-season. You just got to play it out."

The Knicks, despite their 13-22 record, are one game out of the eighth and final place for the playoffs, with only the top four teams in the Eastern Conference with a record above .500.

Smith, meanwhile, did not feel he should have been heavily fined for what he called "a joke gone wrong".

"It's funny because the first time it was done everybody thought it was hilarious," he told reporters after the game.

"It is what it is. I can't change anything now. We won, we beat Miami, a championship team, so I can't complain."

Smith said he was not told whether he would be play in New York's next game on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, but coach Mike Woodson said: "I like what I saw tonight."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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