NEW YORK – They don’t look like the lowly losers of last month. The New York Knicks are playing as if it’s last season — when they even had mighty Miami’s number.
Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points, Andrea Bargnani had 19, and the Knicks beat the Heat 102-92 on Thursday night for their season-high third straight victory.
“You can tell it’s different than one month ago,” Bargnani said. “Our faces are different, our body language is different.”
Raymond Felton had 13 points and 14 assists for the Knicks, who seized control with a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and beat the Heat for the fourth time in five meetings over the last two seasons.
New York was second to Miami in the Eastern Conference last season when it won the series 3-1, but there was little reason to suggest until recently the Knicks were ready to compete with the NBA champions this season. New York is 13-22 but has won four of five in 2014, with victories over San Antonio and Miami — last season’s NBA finalists.
“It wasn’t going to last all season like that,” Felton said. “We were just going through a slump, now I feel like we’re out of it.”
With Tyson Chandler out sick and J.R. Smith stuck on the bench as an apparent punishment, Amare Stoudemire had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
LeBron James scored 32 points for the Heat, who played without injured starters Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier and didn’t get much from Chris Bosh, who was held to six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
“All I know about this game is they outplayed us and they earned that win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points but missed all six free throws after sitting out the morning shootaround as Miami had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Smith didn’t play after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year’s latest trouble, a $50,000 fine when he attempted to untie an opponent’s sneaker for the second straight game, after he’d been warned by the NBA not to do it again. New York coach Mike Woodson criticized Smith’s behavior during a radio interview Wednesday but said before the game he wouldn’t discuss Smith any longer.
But the benching did the speaking for him. Smith often stood far away from the huddle during timeouts, but his teammates sure didn’t miss him on the court.
Woodson again wouldn’t comment after the game, but no Knicks player, not even Smith, seemed to know he wouldn’t play.
Though the roster is different and the results are way worse, Woodson said before the game he believed the things that worked so well against the Heat last season could still do so, and for this night he was right as New York shot 54 percent from the field.
“We’re moving forward,” Anthony said. “We’re taking strides. We’re getting better. We’re learning from our mistakes we’ve made in the past and we’re going to continue to build on this and see what happens.”
The Knicks surged into the lead late in the third. Bargnani answered back quickly after James blew by him for a dunk, converting a three-point play to tie it and ignite a 9-0 spurt that helped New York lead 75-71 entering the final 12 minutes.
Nuggets 101, Thunder 88
In Denver, Randy Foye scored a season-high 24 points and the Nuggets beat Oklahoma City for their fourth win in a row after an eight-game losing streak.
It was the second time in two games that Foye, who hit six 3-pointers, established a season high. He was coming off a 23-point effort in which he made seven 3s in Denver’s victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
The Nuggets overcame Kevin Durant’s 30 points in beating the Thunder for the first time in three tries this season. The teams meet a final time in Oklahoma City on March 24.