By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - Carmelo Anthony's stunning 50-point performance led the New York Knicks to a 102-90 win over defending NBA champions Miami on Tuesday, extending their winning streak to nine games.
The Heat, already having sealed top spot in the Eastern Conference, were without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, all sitting out with minor injuries.
But a third win from four games against Miami this season is a major psychological boost for the Knicks, who could come up against the Heat in the playoffs.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was fulsome in his praise for Anthony, who hit the 50-point mark for the third time in his career.
"He was unbelievable. He refused to let us lose tonight. He made big plays and big shots," he told reporters.
"I have seen some games like this throughout the season from Carmelo Anthony. He had it going early and it was consistent all the way through. When we needed a big bucket, he came up with it."
Anthony was 18 of 26 from the field and reached the 50-point mark with 16.9 seconds left on the clock as the Knicks dominated the fourth quarter.
"He wasn't forcing anything. Some things come easy for great players and tonight he did everything he was supposed to do to put us in a position to win," added Woodson.
Anthony said he felt in form from the first touch.
"It was just from the start of the game. It is a feeling sometimes you have out on the court, sometimes you get off to a good start and get cold throughout the game but tonight wasn't one of those cases," he told reporters.
Anthony has scored 112 points in his three games against Miami this season, averaging 37.3 points per game, but he said he was not thinking ahead to an eventual playoff clash just yet.
"When we meet them we will deal with that. We did what we had to do in terms of winning the game. We were very successful against them this regular season," he added.
"When the playoffs come, if we meet up with them we meet up with them, they aren't on our mind right now."
'HAD IT ROLLING'
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team have won 29 of their last 31 games, including a 27-game winning streak that was the second best in NBA history, was clearly concerned about how to guard Anthony better.
"Obviously we'll look at it and we will have to figure something out, but boy, he was a shot maker tonight. You see a great performance by an opponent, you have to give them credit.
"He made tough shots over the top the entire game," he added.
Miami forward Shane Battier suggested it was just one of those games where little could be done to stop Anthony, who nailed seven three-pointers.
"Carmelo had a hell of a game. That is a game that drives the analytics guys crazy. I don't think he attempted a shot within 15 feet of the basket. Most nights, we would take that every single time.
"He made a ton of shots ... there were some we had poor rotations on and he had really clean looks and that was just breakdowns in our defense.
"A lot were shots you would take times out of 10 and he just had it rolling".
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)