Heat 100, Knicks 67.
It doesn’t erase the three years of heart-che the Knicks inflicted on the Heat during that glorious four-year playoff stretch from 1997-2000, when the Knicks took the last three series after the Heat took that initial suspension-marred series in 1997.
But Saturday’s Game 1 victory in this best-of-seven first-round playoff matchup at AmericanAirlines Arena helps ease Miami’s decade-long pain a little.
And here’s something else that helps Heat fans: Saturday’s game also saw Miami with a decided advantage in the marquee matchup of this series – LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony.
That might be the biggest thing to take from Game 1.
James, who was defended by Anthony, an average defender on his best day, finished with 32 points on 10-for-14 shooting. And he was 11-for-14 from the line, indicating he was at his penetrating best, attacking the rim, putting pressure on the New York defense and forcing them to send him to the line for easy points.
“I’ve waited a long time to get back to the postseason,” James said.
Anthony, who was defended by James, perhaps the NBA’s best defender on his best day, finished with 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting. He didn’t get his first field goal until about two minutes remained in the first half and he looked uncomfortable the entire day.
“The fun starts now,” said Anthony, who said his Knicks need to look at the film, evaluate what happened and remain calm.
That won’t be easy. James, the leading MVP candidate, didn’t just beat the Knicks, he beat them down.
Even when the Knicks tried to retaliate – center Tyson Chandler laid a vicious back-pick on James – it didn’t work. James, in a fine bit of acting, went flying to the floor and immediately grabbed the back of his neck.
It seemed for a second as though like he channeled one of those made-for-slack-asses day-time TV commercials – “When you get in a wreck call 411-Pain.”
Chandler got a flagrant foul 1. That was downgraded from the flagrant 2 that carries an automatic ejection.
“I thought it was a legal pick, honestly,” Chandler said. “He didn’t see me coming. I tried to set a pick for my guard to be able to come off and exploit it. I got a flagrant for it but I didn’t think it was illegal at all.”
James shook off the infraction.
“I played football,” he said. “I’ve been hit harder than that.”
James had 23 first-half points. He was so good that he cruised in the second half, playing just 12 minutes. He didn’t even attempt a free throw.
“I’m not always going to be as efficient as I was tonight,” he warned.
That won’t be necessary if he frustrates the Knicks the way he did Saturday.
That hard pick from Chandler wasn’t the only sign of crumbling we saw from the Knicks. Early in the game Amare Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem got hit with double technical fouls after they jawed when Stoudemire (nine points, five rebounds) swatted one of Haslem’s shots.
Around the time Chandler (0 points, three rebounds, four fouls, seven turnovers) laid out James, New York coach Mike Woodson got hit with a technical foul. And all the while the Knicks were falling further and further behind. And James was putting them there.
“He’s on a mission,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of James.
The Knicks trailed by 23 at halftime. They trailed by 37 at one point early in the fourth quarter. And in the fourth quarter they only got their deficit to fewer than 30 points for about a minute.
This was a total butt-kicking.
New York had 27 turnovers that Miami turned into 38 points. New York’s Big Three of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler combined for 20 points and 18 rebounds.
Miami’s Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade (19 points) and Chris Bosh (nine points, six rebounds) combined for 60 points and 18 rebounds, most of that due to James, of course.
“I feel a difference between Game 1 of last year’s postseason against Philly and today,” he said.
There’s a lot much more pressure on James now than there was a year ago. But he seems to be handling things well.
Few expect the Heat to win by such a large and comfortable margin in Monday’s Game 2 in Miami. But we’ll see.
Miami was 28-5 at home, tied with San Antonio for the best home record during the lockout-shortened regular season. New York hasn’t won a playoff game since 2001, when it beat Toronto.
Worse, the Knicks have to deal with a severe-looking knee injury from swingman Iman Shumpert, who was carried off the court in the third quarter.
“The fun starts now,” Anthony said.
Maybe. If the Knicks allow James to run roughshod over Anthony in Game 2, the fun won’t ever start for the Knicks.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns regularly appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.