NEW YORK – LeBron James, frustrated at himself and his Miami Heat teammates after being routed by Oklahoma City, took it out on the New York Knicks in a 106-91 triumph Saturday.
James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed out seven assists to beat a Knicks team that had won four of its prior five games against Miami.
“I didn’t like our performance in the second half against Oklahoma City and I took it upon myself to hold myself and the team accountable,” James said.
“Tonight we got stops, we forced turnovers and got rebounds. We executed and when we do that we’re a pretty good team.”
The reigning NBA champion Heat were humbled 112-95 at home Wednesday by Oklahoma City, which has the NBA’s best record. NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant netted 33 points for the Thunder.
The next day, James came to practice determined to use the lackluster loss as inspiration to make himself and his teammates better.
“This performance started two days ago,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was on the court, drilling, sweating, letting everybody know this was not acceptable. His actions are speaking louder than his words.”
The Heat (33-13) also wanted to ease the sting of a 102-92 loss at New York on January 9 and did so by outhustling the Knicks (19-28).
“We wanted to be aggressive, disruptive,” Spoelstra said. “It was good to see that aggressiveness. It was good to see that poise going down the stretch.”
England football icon David Beckham, Australian actor Hugh Jackman and new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, at his first game as league boss after taking over from retired David Stern hours earlier, were among a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony, who led New York with 26 points, resorted to tackling James at one point in the third quarter to deny him a fast break basket, causing James to land on his left shoulder, which had an ice pack after the game.
“That’s not the first time I’ve been tackled,” James said. “It’s not really a basketball play but he saw me with a full head of steam. He tried to wrap me up. He didn’t intend for me to fall.
“That wasn’t the story of the game. The way we played defensively, passed the ball, the way we pressed the game offensively, that was the story of the game.
“The way we played tonight is the way we want to play going forward. We want to use this as a springboard. We know we have to play more consistently.”
The Knicks closed within 84-79 before James scored the last six points in a decisive 14-3 Miami run, including a steal and slam dunk and a fadeaway jumper while being double covered.
“I’m feeling good,” James said. “I’m in a very good groove now. Hopefully that can translate into us winning.”
After the Knicks pulled within 53-51 early in the third quarter, the Heat went on an 11-1 run that included six points by James, the most electrifying of them coming on an acrobatic bank shot while being fouled.
“LeBron was LeBron — he made every play down the stretch to make sure they could walk out of the building with the win,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
The Knicks answered with an 11-3 run to pull within 77-71 entering the fourth quarter, but James would not be denied.
“When he gets it going like he did late in the fourth, he’s tough to handle,” Anthony said.