As widely expected, the Miami Heat finished off the New York Knicks 106-94 in convincing fashion for the 4-1 series victory and earned a place in the second round against the Indiana Pacers. The biggest lead of the Knicks was 6 points early in the game thanks in large part to a surprising shooting performance from former Heat guard Mike Bibby who led all scorers with 8 points in the first quarter on 3-4 shooting (2-3 beyond the arc). After that it was all Heat, as they built a lead they held for the rest of the game for the rousing victory in front of their fans (and some quiet Knicks fans too).
There was little drama in the game yet the Knicks hung around long enough to prevent this from being a blowout of epic proportions. Carmelo Anthony did his best to keep the Knicks afloat, taking 31 shots (the same amount as Chris Bosh and LeBron James combined) and hitting 15 of them for 35 points, many with a large degree of difficulty. Spoelstra threw various defenders at Carmelo including LeBron, Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade and sometimes chose to double-team him at times when he had his back to the basket to attempt him to force the ball out of his hands. The Heat answered back after every Knicks mini-run, yet the Knicks did their best with the players left standing to make the final losing margin a respectable one.
"Nothing is easy in the playoffs, in the second season," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We expected a tough game here at home and we weren't able to pull away really, or feel comfortable, until those last 40 seconds or so. They really battled this entire series, they went through a tremendous amount of adversity. We do not take this for granted. This was a tough series. We feel good about moving on and it's only going to get tougher from here."
After a strong comeback performance in Game 4, Amar'e Stoudemire had a relatively quiet game with 14 points, just 4 rebounds and a game-high 5 turnovers but was limited with foul trouble in the second half. After fouling out for good after knocking down Shane Battier, Stoudemire appeared to look like he was going to help Battier up to his feet but then retreated. As he walked back to the bench, Heat announcer Mike Baiamonte said the Knicks forward was "extinguished" from the game to the delight of the AAA crowd.
The Knicks though, were gracious in defeat and praised the Heat's play. Although it's still a rivalry that had a few heated moments from time to time throughout the 5 games (though nothing like the good old days many years ago), there was a healthy dose of respect on both sides after the series conclusion.
"We played a great team, a well-coached team," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterwards. "I thought we played well in spurts. Our guys got a short taste of what playoff basketball is about. We had opportunities but you've got to give them credit too because every time we made a run and cut it to 10 or 11 or we got it to single digits, they made plays coming back the other way. That's what great teams do. This team that we played is a team that was in the Finals last year that knows how to win, and win at a high level in playoff basketball. We're a team that's learning with some of the young players that we have."
LeBron continued his dominant run throughout the series with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the decisive game. The soon-to-be-crowned MVP, if all goes as expected, let the game come to him without forcing the action.
"I was able to find my guys in strides and get them some easy buckets," he said. "Personally, I was able to get to the free throw line. That was really good, I was able to be aggressive and keep us in the game. They were shooting the ball extremely well to start the game."
After it was all said and done, Dwyane Wade reflected on the series victory and acknowledged how hard the Knicks played despite losing key members of their team to injury.
"Obviously this is a rivalry. A lot of us know a lot of them on that team. I think this series was played a little different than probably two teams that really don't know each other. There's a lot of pride that takes place in this kind of series. Even though it was a 5-game series, it was a very tough series to win it. Obviously, Game 1 was probably the easiest one where we were able to win it by 30 but the other ones were tough games. I thought it helped us to be able to go against a team like this. I said that in the beginning, I said this was going to help us come into the playoffs and be ready and not overlook anyone and we couldn't overlook this team."
The Heat face off in the first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, May 13 at 3:30 PM. The date and time for Game 2 is still to be determined.