Maybe Shane Battier really likes the Super Bowl.
It was almost a year ago that a Miami Heat victory over the Toronto Raptors on Super Bowl Sunday was followed by Battier's impassioned speech to his teammates. That speech became the motivation that set off a 27-game win streak, the second-longest in NBA history.
On Saturday night, Shane scored 16 points (on 5-of-8 shooting) in Miami's 106-91 victory over the New York Knicks before a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden. As always, his defense was also a factor, helping to limit Carmelo Anthony to 26 points.
It was a game that many hoped would be 1-on-1 duel between Anthony and LeBron James, with some speculating James would try to top the 62-point mark set by Anthony just a few weeks ago. Instead, Miami rebounded from a demoralizing loss to Oklahoma City and played a well-rounded game; the kind of style that leads to championships, not single-game scoring records.
New York started off hot, getting 11 first-quarter points from the always-unpredictable J.R. Smith, who had been suspended in the last matchup between these two teams. But James was able to pace Miami early, matching Smith's point total in the quarter, and building a 29-22 lead. Anthony was noticeably harassed by Battier, hitting only 2-of-5 shots and turning over the ball on consecutive plays as the period came to a close.
Dwyane Wade had sat down halfway through the first quarter, and was shown on the sidelines getting some treatment on his right foot. Whatever they did worked, as he came back to start the second quarter and looked better than he had in weeks. Wade was moving quickly, getting to the hoop at will, and put Miami up 37-27. James continued the hot scoring for Miami and pushed the lead up to 12 before the Knicks, with the help of the three blind mice, started to narrow that gap. At one point, Anthony used his
fat ass strength to get past a defender and, on another blown call, was awarded free-throws when he extended his legs toward Battier on a missed three-pointer.
However, the theory of an always honest basketball and the Ghost of Honey Nut Cheerios Past prevailed, as Carmelo missed all three shots. The Heat closed the half up, 53-46.
At the start of the third quarter, a Smith three-pointer closed Miami's lead to two. James once again answered the call, answering with two quick baskets. Mario Chalmers, who seems to enjoy a steady diet of improbable layups high off the glass, got the lead back up to eight. Wade was also very impressive in the period, moving especially well without the ball. But Anthony's nine points in the period helped cut Miami's lead to six at the start of the fourth quarter.
The last period was all about James and Norris Cole, however. Cole was determined to shoot his way out of a recent slump and took advantage of Raymond Felton's sluggish defense. As for LeBron, he finished the night with 30 points, punctuating his night with several dunks and turn-around jumpers, much to the delight of the Garden crowd.
Chris Bosh, while only an anemic 2 of 11 from the field, lead Miami with 10 rebounds. Wade went for 22 points (on 10 of 15 shooting), and added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Aside from Carmelo's glutinous scoring binge in the second half (and winding up with 26 mostly-useless points), the bright spot for New York is the continued development of local boy Tim Hardaway, Jr. The rookie had 17 points, including three from long range.
With any luck, the Knicks front office will continue their decades-long trend of making terrible personnel moves and they'll trade Hardaway back home to Miami for the trimmings of Chris Andersen's beard and free tickets to next year's "Battioke" event.
Miami will enjoy a night off before facing the Detroit Pistons on Monday (7:30 P.M. at the American Airlines Arena).
Check back with HotHotHoops for the latest news about the NBA champs.