They don’t look like the lowly losers of last month. The New York Knicks are playing as if it’s last season — when they even had mighty Miami’s number.
Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points and Andrea Bargnani had 19 as the Knicks beat the Heat 102-92 on Thursday for their season-high third straight victory.
“You can tell it’s different than one month ago,” Bargnani said. “Our faces are different, our body language is different.”
Raymond Felton had 13 points and 14 assists for the Knicks, who seized control with a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, beating the Heat for the fourth time in five meetings over the past two seasons.
New York were second to Miami in the Eastern Conference last season when they won the series 3-1, but there was little reason to suggest until recently that the Knicks were ready to compete with the NBA champions this season.
New York are 13-22, but they have won four of five this year, with victories over both San Antonio and Miami — last season’s NBA finalists.
“It wasn’t going to last all season like that,” Felton said. “We were just going through a slump, now I feel like we’re out of it.”
With Tyson Chandler out sick and J.R. Smith stuck on the bench as an apparent punishment, Amar’e Stoudemire had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
LeBron James scored 32 points for the Heat, who played without injured starters Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier, and did not get much from Chris Bosh, who was held to six points on three-of-10 shooting.
“All I know about this game is they outplayed us and they earned that win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, but missed all six free throws after sitting out the morning shootaround as Miami had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“I only missed six,” Wade said. “I didn’t miss 20. It wasn’t that damn bad.”
Smith did not play after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year’s latest trouble, a US$50,000 fine when he attempted to untie an opponent’s sneaker for the second straight game after he had been warned by the NBA not to do it again.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson criticized Smith’s behavior in a radio interview on Wednesday, but said before the game he would not discuss Smith any longer. The benching did the speaking for him.
Smith often stood far away from the huddle during timeouts, but his teammates sure did not miss him on the court.
Woodson again would not comment after the game, but no Knicks player, not even Smith, seemed to know he would not play.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Smith said. “I expected to do the same thing I always do. I did my same routine and it didn’t happen.”
Though the roster is different and the results are way worse, Woodson said before the game he believed the things that worked so well against the Heat last season could still do so, and for this night he was right as New York shot 54 percent from the field.
“We’re moving forward,” Anthony said. “We’re taking strides. We’re getting better. We’re learning from our mistakes we’ve made in the past, and we’re going to continue to build on this and see what happens.”
The Knicks surged into the lead late in the third quarter.
Bargnani answered back quickly after James blew by him for a dunk, converting a three-point play to tie it and ignite a 9-0 spurt that helped New York lead 75-71 entering the final 12 minutes.