The Knicks fall to the Heat, as a great player outclasses a good one

James. (nba.com)
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Through three quarters of Thursday night's Game 3 between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, it was hard to say who was more fortunate that the game was so close.

LeBron James, the league's best player, was 3-for-9 from the field through three quarters for just 15 points. He committed seven turnovers, and his four fouls forced him to play cautious, ineffective defense, and to miss minutes.

But James' opposite number, Carmelo Anthony, didn't take advantage. Anthony was 5-for-19 through three quarters for just 14 points, with four turnovers and, despite consistent defensive pressure that should have left other Knicks open, just two assists. (The low number of his assists wasn't all his fault; his teammates were missing, too.)

Still, an ugly game stood at Miami 58, New York 56 after three quarters. It was up to someone to come out and take over, and on New York's home floor, with the Knicks trailing the series 2-0 already and therefore far more desperate, it was as good a time as ever for that someone to be Anthony.

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Instead, it was James, who outscored the Knicks all by himself in the final period, as Miami took Game 3, 87-70, effectively ending whatever doubt there ever was about the outcome of the best-of-seven series. And Anthony, in a moment one assumes is the reason he engineered a trade to New York to begin with, completely disappeared.

It was over so fast, too. James came down the court and nailed a three-pointer. The Knicks responded with a long possession that ultimately saw Anthony pass to Mike Bibby, who, naturally, missed a three. Back came James, straight to the basket for a layup. Anthony, bailing on the dribble drive, kicked to Landry Fields, who missed a wide-open shot from 19 feet. Back came James, seven seconds later, with another three. Heat up ten. Ballgame over.

That 83-second stretch was a reminder that when the Knicks missed out on LeBron James in the summer of 2010, they missed out on a player who could have made them a championship team. It was also a reminder that Anthony, if he is to be the centerpiece of a trie contender, simply doesn't have nearly enough help right now. Not without Jeremy Lin. Not without Amar'e Stoudemire. Not if he has to rely on Fields, who has been miserable from the perimeter all year, and Bibby, who shot 28 percent from everywhere this season.

Because really, the Knicks threw everything they had at Miami tonight. New York's defense was terrific through three quarters. Tyson Chandler was Tyson Chandler, scoring 10 points, pulling down 15 rebounds and helping to hold Miami to 30 points in the paint all night. Had Anthony been even close to the player who led the Knicks to an 18-6 finish under coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks would be in position to tie this series on Sunday afternoon in Game 4.

But while James struggled, Miami had Dwayne Wade around to score, something he did freely when covered by the overmatched Fields. Once J.R. Smith began guarding him, Wade slowed down. But that had the effect of taking much of Smith's energy, and he shot 5-for-18 on a night when the Knicks desperately needed offense.

Mario Chalmers picked up where Wade left off, the unspectacular point guard torching the Knicks for another 19 points, with New York simply lacking, in Bibby and Baron Davis, a point guard capable of matching up defensively with pretty much anyone at this point.

Miami never let Steve Novak get a look at the basket, and Mike Woodson's offense simply isn't imaginative enough to create ways of getting Novak free. That left the Knicks needing offense from one source: Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony just didn't have it on Thursday night. 

No N.B.A. team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and the Knicks have yet to beat the Heat this season. Last night seemed like their chance. But they simply didn't have what it takes.