Melo Cools Off Heat in Miami

KNICKS 114, HEAT 103

There are games when you just find the mismatch and ride it until the opponent adjusts. Against a depleted Heat lineup, there was no adjustment to make against Carmelo Anthony so Jeff Hornacek exploited it through a 13-point third quarter by the Knicks‘ star.

These are the games where it’s OK for Melo to be the focal point. After a slow start, he torched Miami for 35 points against smaller defenders like Rodney McGruder and Tyler Johnson. Without the likes of Justise Winslow and James Johnson in the lineup, the Heat had no answer for Melo.

Joakim Noah had his best game of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds (7 on the offensive glass) as he and Kyle O’Quinn (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) tag-teamed in defending Hassan Whiteside. The Heat tried to outwork the Knicks early, but it was the Knicks who finished the game winning the effort battle by winning the rebounding battle by 7, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and scoring 31 second-chance points.

This was an important win, not just because it came on the road, where the Knicks have had some issues this season. But also because it comes on the front-end of a tough back-to-back that sent them back home on a long flight to host the defending champion Cavaliers at the Garden on Wednesday. The Cavs, it should be noted, settled into their New York hotel — make that hotels, as LeBron James reportedly opted not to stay at the team hotel — on Tuesday evening.

March 26, 2015: Melo and the Knicks battle LeBron and the Cavs at The Garden. (Credit: MSG Photos)

The Knicks (12-9) enter the game with a four-game winning streak and now have won 9 of their last 12 games after a 3-6 start. After Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, they embark on a five-game West Coast trip.

On Tuesday night, the Knicks had all 15 players available. But after the game, there were concerns about Derrick Rose‘s availability for Wednesday’s game. Rose played just 24:55 in Miami and left the game in the third quarter with back spasms. After the game, he said he felt better, but gave no guarantees that he’d be in the lineup against Kyrie Irving and the Cavs.

It’s an 8 p.m. tipoff tonight, so we’ll have Knicks Game Night coverage on MSG Networks beginning at 7:30 p.m. I have a new Knicks Fix ready with a look at where LeBron ranks on the Garden’s all-time opponent scoring list.