Carmelo Anthony's absence meant the New York Knicks weren't supposed to win on Thursday night in Miami against the Heat. Miami was coming off a bad loss in Washington, so they'd be fired up, and they wanted revenge for the Knicks' win over them on opening night at Madison Square Garden. It wasn't supposed to be close. It was supposed to be a laugher, and it was. The final score was 112-92.
But the Knicks and their fans were the ones doing the chuckling. The Knicks played an incredible all around, team game and handed the Heat their second straight loss, improving their East-leading record to 14-4 without the services of their leading scorer and one of the league's early season MVP candidates. Raymond Felton stepped up for the Knicks, scoring 27 points (all in the first three quarters), hitting 6-of-10 from downtown with seven assists. Steve Novak had 18 off the bench and Jason Kidd returned to the starting lineup and logged 32 minutes, finishing an astounding plus-31.
New York played a bit of "make everyone but LeBron James beat us" and it worked. James was the only Heat player to really do anything on the night, falling a single assist short of his second straight triple-double in finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Dwyane Wade had just 13 points and was a minus-32, while Chris Bosh made just three field goals and finished with 13 points.
It was all hands on deck, and every Knick who saw the floor contributed in some way to the victory. Just 24-hours removed from hitting the game-winning shot in Charlotte, J.R. Smith shook off a rough first half to hit a couple big threes in the third and fourth quarters when the Knicks started pulling away. Tyson Chandler played his usual tough defense on the interior, as did Rasheed Wallace who missed all six of his 3-point attempts but still had 12 points. Even the seldom used James White gave the Knicks 17 solid minutes while the game was still within reach. Kurt Thomas started again and had seven rebounds in 11 minutes. Name a Knick, they all played a part.
Prior to this season, the Heat had lost just once by 20 or more points with James in the lineup. They now have two losses this season to the Knicks by 20 or more. While this doesn't mean the Knicks are better than the Heat, it does prove that the Knicks are just a darn good team and one deserving of the league's respect and attention. While many will be shocked by the final score and the fact that the Knicks are 14-4, the fact is that this is how the Knicks have played all season. While Anthony has been their leading scorer, they have shown their depth all year and have been efficient on offense and tough on defense. When a team is as deep, together and cohesive as the Knicks are right now, missing one player isn't going to make that big of a difference. Even if it's Carmelo Anthony.
So while it's too early to make any proclamations or worry about the postseason, the shorthanded Knicks' victory on Thursday proved the Knicks are indeed for real.