Their head-to-head scoring matchup in this series was even, 139 points apiece.
Just about everything else tipped Miami’s way — so the Heat are moving on and the New York Knicks are going home.
James had 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both scored 19 points and the Heat ousted the short-handed Knicks 106-94 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night.
The Heat won the series 4-1, and will meet Indiana in the East semifinals starting Sunday in Miami.
“We do not take this for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This was a tough series. We feel very good about moving on and it’ll only get tougher from here.”
For the Heat, it was only the first step. The reigning East champions have one goal — getting back to the finals and winning it all — and that was likely why even beating the franchise’s longtime rival prompted, at most, a subdued celebration.
“We will savor this win tonight,” James said. “And then we get to work tomorrow and get ready for Indiana.”
Anthony scored 35 points for the Knicks, including a spinning jumper over James at the end of the third quarter that pulled New York within 81-67. It was far from being enough to stave off an all too familiar playoff result for Anthony, part of that 2003 draft class that also yielded James, Bosh and Wade.
Anthony has played 54 postseason games, being part of wins only 17 times. A misleading stat for certain — it’s hardly all on him — and no shortage of people in the Heat organization interrupted their celebrating of a series-clincher to tip their caps Anthony’s way afterward.
“We fought, under the circumstances,” Anthony said. “I’m not one to make any excuses for anything. … But Miami, they’re a tough defensive team. They stick to what their schemes are.”
James shot 48 percent from the field in the series; Anthony shot 42 percent. James averaged 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists; Anthony averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
“It was fun, man,” James said. “He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever played against in a playoff series.”
Amare Stoudemire scored 14 points, Landry Fields and J.R. Smith both added 12, Mike Bibby had 10 and Tyson Chandler grabbed 11 rebounds for New York, which is 1-8 in playoff games with Anthony and Stoudemire as teammates.
“Miami is a very good team,” Stoudemire said. “You have to give credit to them.”
Stoudemire fouled out with 4:48 left, and the Knicks put together one more run with hopes of extending the season. New York cut the margin to 11 points four times in a 2-minute span, but Miami answered every time, the last of those a 3-pointer by Shane Battier with 54 seconds left.
That sent the white seat covers flying in all corners of the arena, the fans knowing it was finally over.
“There’s a lot of pride that takes place in this kind of series,” Wade said. “Even though it was a five-game series, it was a very tough series to win. … I thought it helped us. You couldn’t overlook this team.”
Bibby averaged 0.5 points in first-quarter appearances this season. That was before scoring eight in the opening minutes of Game 5, including a jumper over Wade that gave New York a quick 14-8 lead.
It was one of New York’s few moments to enjoy. James had 13 points on only six field-goal attempts by halftime, Wade shook off a scoreless first quarter with 12 in the second, and Miami went into the break leading 55-44.
The margin was less than 10 points for only 90 seconds of the third quarter. Stoudemire went to the bench with his fifth foul with 6:41 left in the third, and Miami went on an 11-2 spurt not long after that all but sealed the outcome. It was 67-58 when Fields made two free throws with 4:49 left in the quarter — and then the Heat’s “Big Three” needed just 3 minutes to blow the game open.
Bosh and Wade combined for six points in that flurry, James the other five, including a 21-footer with 1:29 left to put Miami up 78-60.
“It was very crucial,” James said. “We had an 11- or 12-point lead in Game 4 and we weren’t able to bump it up to 15, 16. … We allowed them to get back into the game. We were very conscious tonight when we got that lead.”
For the Knicks, it was the 12th straight season without a playoff series victory. The last time New York advanced in the postseason came at Miami’s expense in 2000 in the East semifinals.
New York’s season started with great expectations. Not long after the lockout ended the Knicks acquired Chandler from Dallas, a move made possible by using the amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups.
Those moves were expected. Just about everything else that happened was not. From the firing of coach Mike D’Antoni to the emergence of Jeremy Linbefore he was sidelined by a knee injury, the Knicks had a roller-coaster ride that continued with a baffling series of injuries against Miami.
Rookie guard Iman Shumpert was lost in the third quarter of Game 1 to a torn knee ligament, Stoudemire sliced his left hand after taking out his frustrations on a metal-and-glass fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss, and Baron Davis shredded his knee so badly in Game 4 that he is expected to be out a year — at least.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. “Our guys got a short taste of what playoff basketball’s about. It’s something this summer we’ve got to sit and think about and hopefully get ready for next season.”
He didn’t put any extra emphasis on the word “hopefully,” but he could have. One of New York’s first orders of business this offseason will likely be deciding if Woodson will be back on the sideline, as many expect.
“Woody’s done a heck of a job with that team,” Spoelstra said.
Miami went 7-1 against the Knicks this season, including playoffs. The Heat won three of four games against Indiana this season. … James had seven points, five assists and zero field goals in the first quarter. Only two other players (Billups in 2007 and Jerryd Bayless in 2011, both in fourth quarters) had done that in any quarter since James entered the league, according to STATS LLC. … Rapper Rick Ross was among those courtside.