Miami Heat forward James reacts after his second quarter dunk against the New York Knicks during Game 2 of their first round NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff in Miami

New York fights harder, plays better, but Heat still win, up 2-0


Carmelo Anthony played better, dropping 30 in Game 2. Tyson Chandler was back to being himself after having the flu and was far more aggressive at both ends. He had a real impact on the game.

It didn’t matter. The Miami Heat led most of the game, took charge when LeBron James went on a personal run in the third quarter, and went on to win 104-94. The Heat are now up 2-0 in the first-round playoff series as it heads back to New York.

The Knicks need to treat Game 3 Thursday as a must win because if they go down 3-0 it’s all but over.

And it may be tough to win Game 3 without Amare Stoudemire, who hurt his left hand punching a glass-encased fire extinguisher after the game. Not smart. But it kind of fits in with how this series has gone for the Knicks. Stoudemire’s status for Game 3 is unknown.

The Heat led from the start. With Iman Shumpert out due to a torn ACL, Dwyane Wade was able to establish him self early and attack in the paint. He helped get the Heat off early and finished with 25.

But these Knicks were more aggressive than in Game 1 — they ran more pick-and-roll so the defense couldn’t focus on just Anthony. Chandler had a monster putback in the second. Anthony seemed to have his way with Shane Battier on him, they ran other sets to counter the Heat’s fronting of Anthony. ‘Melo tried to shoot the Knicks to a win.

The problem is that is not going to work. Maybe once in a seven game series, but the Heat’s defense is too quick, too athletic, you can’t just rely on one guy against them. The Knicks are not sharing the ball enough, they are taking a lot of jumpers while the Heat get points in the paint. Right now, the Knicks are strictly the ‘Melo show.

The Heat have other guys. LeBron had 19 points but was key in the third quarter when the Heat pulled away. After Game 1 the Knicks brought double teams and tried to take the ball out of his hands, and it sort of worked. Well, until the third quarter when he just attacked anyway and couldn’t be stopped.

Chris Bosh also had a better game as well, including the dagger. He had 21 points but just three rebounds.

The Knicks need more from everyone else. They need better and more consistent defense. They need J.R. Smith to make plays on the pick and roll and get hot shooting. They need Steve Novak to score and Landry Fields to stop hesitating when the ball gets swung to him. They need everything to go right — their margin for error against the Heat is small.

They need it all to come together back home Thursday night for Game 3. It’s must win for them.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.