MIAMI - The Miami Heat suffered their worst home defeat of the 'Big Three' era as the defending NBA champions crashed to a 112-92 loss to a New York Knicks team without their star forward Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks have sole leadership of the Eastern Conference with a 14-4 record, ahead of the Heat who slip to 12-5, having also lost by 20 points to the Knicks in New York on Nov. 2.
Raymond Felton top-scored for New York with 27 points, including six of 10 on three-point throws, as the Knicks flourished despite the absence of Anthony, who has an injured finger on his non-shooting left hand.
"It was a total team effort from everyone that played," said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
"Across the board I think our defense was solid for 48 minutes. I thought offensively our flow was good and guys made shots."
For the Heat, LeBron James put up 31 points with 10 rebounds and nine assists but it was a quiet night for Dwyane Wade, who was three-of-13 from the field and made just 13 points.
James was fuming after the game, choosing to burn off his frustration in the gym and, sweating and panting, he told reporters that the team could not sweep the defeat under the carpet.
"We've got work to do. They pretty much kicked our ass," he said.
"We have to communicate better. Against teams like the Knicks, you have to over-communicate," added James.
|Miami Heat's Shane Battier (C) is boxed out by New York Knicks' Steve Novak (L) and J.R. Smith (R) in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
While he was clearly upset with the team performance, there is little wrong with the form of Miami's main man - the game was his 17th in a row where he has made at least 20 points this season - and his 22nd in a streak going back to last season.
The previous worst home loss since James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Wade in Miami was a 97-82 defeat by Memphis on April 6, 2012.
The teams went in level 53-53 at halftime but the Knicks came out aggressively after the interval, winning the third quarter by 10 points and then repeating that difference in the final period.
Almost half the Knicks' points came from three-point throws as they made 18 of 44 compared with Miami's six from 16.
The Knicks made eight three-pointers in the third quarter alone and they dominated Miami till the end, apart from an attempted rally by the Heat late in the third when they managed to reduce the deficit to eight points.
"By the time they got to the second half, they were rolling," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
"They were at a different level from outside and they were knocking down ones even when we were contesting."
The Knicks, defeated 4-1 by Miami in the first round of last season's playoffs, look an improved team and their victory took them to five straight for the second time this season.
Their 14-4 record is the best start to a campaign since the 1993-94 season. (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Patrick Johnston and Mark Lamport-Stokes)