NBA PLAYOFFS ROUNDUP: James, Heat pull away to 3-0 lead over Knicks

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives past New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) in the second half of Thursday's game. James scored 32 points as Miami won, 87-70.

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives past New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) in the second half of Thursday's game. James scored 32 points as Miami won, 87-70.

NEW YORK — LeBron James alternated fouls and fumbles, the crowd howling in delight with every one of his mistakes.

Finally forced to sit for most of the third quarter, James wasn’t mad, and the Miami Heat weren’t worried.

“We had the lead going into the fourth quarter on the road, and then we had the best player in the game coming in. So we were fine,” Dwyane Wade said.

And James, over the final 12 minutes, was exceptional.

James scored 32 points, including eight straight to start the fourth quarter and break open the game, and the Heat took a 3-0 series lead, sending the New York Knicks to an NBA postseason-record 13th straight loss, 87-70 on Thursday night.

James had 17 points in the final period for the Heat, who held the short-handed Knicks to eight field goals in the second half and will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon.

“He just has to stay with it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He had some turnovers, he had some mistakes but he was able to keep his head in it.”

Wade added 20 points for the Heat and Mario Chalmers had 19, hitting consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter when the Heat finally brought some beauty to what had been an ugly game.

“My mindset was to make plays for our team to try and help us win down the stretch,” James said. “I was able to come in and make some plays to help us win.”

Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points but shot 7 of 23 for the Knicks, who are playing without Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert and needed a super effort from Anthony that he didn’t come close to providing.

“When you can’t score the basketball, that makes the game extremely hard, no matter how much defense we go down there and play,” Anthony said.

The Knicks broke the record set by Memphis from 2004-06. They haven’t won a playoff game since April 29, 2001, Game 3 of a best-of-five series against Toronto.

No NBA team has overcome a 3-0 deficit.

“It’s a tough one. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s one we have to go through,” center Tyson Chandler said. “Obviously no one wants to be in a hole 0-3, you know in the playoffs especially against a tough team like (Miami), but that’s the way it is and we’ve got to keep fighting.”

Chris Bosh had nine points and 10 rebounds hours after the birth of his first child. He flew to New York with the Heat on Wednesday, then quickly hopped on a flight back to Miami after learning his wife was in labor. He returned Thursday afternoon following the birth of his son, arriving at the arena about 30 minutes before the game.

In a sloppy game between two star-studded teams, Miami went 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half, followed by the Knicks managing just three baskets in the third quarter.

Then James, who finished with eight turnovers, took over.

He came off the bench to start the fourth after sitting most of the third in foul trouble, quickly providing the best offensive stretch in the game. He nailed a 3-pointer, followed his own miss, then hit again from behind the arc, turning the Heat’s two-point lead into a 66-56 cushion with 10:36 remaining.

“He was in foul trouble,” Bosh said. “He was struggling a little bit and he had pretty much the whole third quarter to think about what was going on. I think that was good for him. I think it really built a desire in him a little bit and then he made sure we got off to a great start in the fourth quarter which was very important for us.”

The Heat put it away midway through the period, when Wade made a jumper before Chalmers hit twice in a row from behind the arc to make it 77-62 with 5:40 to play.

Fans started leaving, realizing there was little hope of the Knicks making up 15 points on anybody with the lineup they have.

The Knicks shot 32 percent, getting a 5-for-18 night from JR Smith. New York shot 4 of 20 from 3-point range, with Smith missing all five.

During one hideous stretch, Baron Davis’ jumper gave the Knicks a three-point lead with 8:46 left in the third, but they didn’t hit again for 7 minutes — and even that make was ugly. Anthony flung in a shot off the backboard while being fouled and tied the game at 51.

“Offensively we just didn’t have it,” Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. “We were so stagnant and I got to take the heat for that.”

Lin is practicing again after knee surgery but is not ready to return. Shumpert tore a knee ligament in Game 1, and Stoudemire is hoping the hand injury he sustained punching a fire extinguisher case following Game 2 is healed enough to let him play Sunday.

Desperate to see playoff success, Knicks fans were loud early, chanting “Beat the Heat! Beat the Heat!” but the Knicks gave them little to cheer about once the game started. They made one basket in the first 5 minutes and fell behind by as many as nine points, but then shut down the Heat from the field after Bosh’s basket with 4:59 left and tied it at 19 by period’s end.

James came in averaging 29.9 points at the current Madison Square Garden, trailing only Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant among opponents who played here at least 10 games. Wade was just behind in fourth with 27.3 per game.

Yet the superstars both started 1 of 6 from the field, James seeming particularly frustrated with the officials and even teammates. Once a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden — Knicks fans hoped he would sign here as a free agent in 2010 — he was booed, mocked and cursed by the crowd Thursday.

He eventually would get on the roll he is accustomed to here.

The Heat won the opener by 33 points and took Game 2 104-94 on Monday, when the Knicks’ biggest problems came after the game. Stoudemire punched a fire extinguisher case in the arena and badly cut his left hand, needing surgery Tuesday to repair a muscle. He sat on bench with his arm in a sling.

Steve Novak started for him but took only two shots and missed them both.

Notes: Chandler was honored in a pregame ceremony for winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. The Knicks also held a moment of silence for former coach and scout Andrew “Fuzzy” Levane, who died earlier this week at 92.


DALLAS — When Kevin Durant finally found his postseason shooting touch for Oklahoma City, the young Thunder were off and running.

And now they are already only one victory from knocking the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.

Unlike the first two games in Oklahoma City, Game 3 wasn't even close. Durant got the Thunder off to a quick start and they never trailed on way to a 95-79 victory Thursday night for a commanding 3-0 series lead.

"Kevin is going to stay confident," said fellow 20-something All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook. "Tonight, he was just his regular self. He kind of surprised everybody else, but to us he was his regular self."

Even though Durant missed the first shot of the game, Serge Ibaka turned that into a putback basket. Durant then scored nine points in an early 3-minute span, including two 3-pointers and a 17-foot fadeaway, as Oklahoma City took a 14-7 lead.

Durant finished with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The three-time NBA scoring champion was a combined 15 of 44 in the first two games of the series, though he had a game-winning jumper with 1.5 seconds in the opener.

"He was jumping over us and making shots," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

Westbrook added 20 points while Ibaka had 10 points and 11 rebounds, while James Harden and Derek Fisher both had 10 points.

Now the Thunder get a chance to put away the best-of-seven series in Game 4 Saturday night in Dallas.

"We know we haven't done anything yet," Durant said.

OK, so they haven't won the series yet. But they have put the Mavericks in a hole that no NBA team has ever overcome. None has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

The Mavericks have a nearly impossible climb to avoid being the first defending champion knocked out in the first round of the playoffs since Miami five years ago. After beating Dallas in the 2006 NBA finals, the Heat were swept in four games by Chicago in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs the next season.

"Our mistakes we weren't able to overcome. Their high-level play, we weren't able to overcome either," Carlisle said. "It's really tough to go down 0-3. We're going to keep fighting."

Dirk Nowitzki had 17 points to lead Dallas, which lost the first two games by a combined four points.

"We played two solid games in OKC. Tonight, we picked a bad time to put a stinker out there," Nowitzki said. "We've got to win a game. ... We've got to show some pride on Saturday."

Oklahoma City had a 16-7 lead less than 5 minutes into the game after Durant's alley-oop pass to Ibaka for a layup. The Thunder pushed ahead with 16-5 runs in both the second and third quarters, the later spurt clinching the game.

When Kendrick Perkins had a tip-in of Harden's miss with 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Carlisle was so irate that the field goal wasn't disallowed for basket interference that he had to be restrained by one of his assistant coaches.

Carlisle went ballistic, charging onto the court screaming and pointing at official Marc Davis. Replays showed Carlisle might have had a good argument, but he got called for a technical foul and Westbrook's free throw put the Thunder up 21-11, their first double-digit lead.

"There's been frustration with officials, but we're not going to make it about officials," Carlisle said.

A couple of minutes later, Durant made his third 3-pointer to stretch the gap to 28-13. Durant had 15 points by the end of the first quarter.

Dallas did cut the deficit to 32-26 by the end of the first quarter after Vince Carter made two free throws, had a driving one-handed dunk and ended the quarter with a 3-pointer in the final 1:34 for Dallas. Delonte West started the second quarter with two free throws.

But the Thunder were again up by 15 after consecutive 3-pointers by Fisher and Westbrook.

Harden made a cross-court pass to Fisher in the left corner in front of the Oklahoma City bench. Then after a wide-open Shawn Marion fumbled the ball out of bounds under the Dallas basket, Westbrook hit a 3-pointer for a 48-33 lead that led to a timeout by Carlisle.

Dallas got a slam from Ian Mahinmi and a driving layup by Kidd in the opening minute of the third quarter to get within 50-45.

But the Thunder then had their second 16-5 run, and was back up 66-50 when Thabo Sefolosha made a 3-pointer. The Mavericks never got closer than 11 points after that, finishing the third quarter only 4-of-18 shooting with four turnovers.

"We can't get frustrated. You've got to tip your hat to them. They kicked our butt in every facet of the game," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "We've got to come out with pride and execute our game plan. We haven't done that in this series."

Notes: Harden was added earlier Thursday to the list of finalists for the 2012 USA Basketball National Team. Thunder teammates Durant and Westbrook are also finalists for the 12-man U.S. Olympic team roster that will be announced later this year. ... Dallas was assessed four technical fouls. Nowitzki got called for one in the first quarter, and West was called in the third quarter when he reached out and grabbed the wrist of official Greg Willard when questioning a call. There was a double technical early in the fourth against Brian Cardinal and Durant.