Stoudemire’s playoff exit came early — the result of a sixth foul — but his star teammates soon followed Wednesday night when another postseason ended in despair. The Knicks were never as good as their hype, and never a match for the , who closed out the first-round series in five games, with a 106-94 victory at American Airlines Arena.
Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony been partners for two playoff runs. Both have ended in the first round, with one victory to show for it.
“Next year, we’ll be better,” Anthony vowed. “We’ll be much better as a unit. Not just me and Amar’e, but as a team, as a group, we’ll be much better.”
The Heat, seeking their second straight trip to the finals, will play the Indiana Pacers in the second round.
In uniting Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, the Knicks were attempting to match the Heat’s , Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But this series exposed the folly of that vision. Miami was more talented, more polished, more mature and more unified in its purpose.
The Heat kept the ball moving, kept the Knicks on their heels and never relented. The Knicks responded with solo efforts and contested desperation shots. Chandler, who helped the Dallas Mavericks beat Miami for the title last June, was the most reflective in defeat, citing the Knicks’ failures to work together.
“We have to elevate our teammates,” he said. “I think we have to do a better job of getting everybody involved, getting everybody playing at a high level and get everybody focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.”
He added, tellingly, “When you play as individuals you don’t get very far.”
Chandler said he was not necessarily referring to this series, but it fit the description. The Knicks averaged an anemic 12.6 assists per game, to Miami’s 19. They shot .417 from the field, to the Heat’s .456.
And the offense was dominated by two players: Anthony and J. R. Smith combined to take 200 of the Knicks’ 367 shots, and both shot poorly. Anthony converted 41.9 percent of his attempts, and Smith 31.6 percent, often short-circuiting the offense.
“I think I did a poor job with my shot selection,” said Smith, who was 3 for 15 in the finale. “Melo did what he could.”
Anthony followed his 41-point Game 4 with a 35-point effort in Game 5, but the Heat defense — led by James and Shane Battier — kept him bottled up and frustrated for most of the series.
Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra called Anthony “as prolific a scorer as there is,” saying, “he deserves the respect we gave him, which was the whole kitchen sink.”
James (29 points), Wade (19) and Bosh (19) took turns converting spectacular dunks, and Miami repeatedly took advantage in transition, scoring 20 points on the fast break.
Anthony tried to rally the Knicks with 11 points in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks never got the deficit into single digits. Miami held a double-digit edge for the final 16 minutes and led by as many as 19 points.
Thus ended a wild, stressful, often-dizzying, frequently tumultuous post-lockout season in which the Knicks seemed to change identities every two weeks, and changed coaches along the way.
“We played a great team,” said Coach Mike Woodson, who led the Knicks to a late resurgence after replacing Mike D’Antoni. “Our guys got a short taste of what playoff basketball is about.”
The franchise will now turn its attention to retaining Woodson. Discussions on a new contract are already under way.
Although their stars are locked up, the Knicks face decisions on several key rotation players. Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields will be restricted free agents. Smith is expected to opt out of his contract. Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries, Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are unrestricted free agents.
The Knicks’ 89-87 victory in Game 4 ended an 11-year playoff drought, but they are still seeking their first series victory since 2000. After two postseasons together, Anthony and Stoudemire are 1-8, doing nothing to quell concerns that they are a poor fit.
Stoudemire said all the Knicks need is stability, in the lineup and in the coach’s chair.
“We haven’t had no consistency the past two years,” he said, referring to frequent roster overhauls. “I’ve been on maybe three to four different teams since I’ve been here.”
Asked if he and Anthony can succeed together, Stoudemire said: “There’s no doubt. I think it will work. Just have to see what Coach Woodson’s going to do to make it work.”
Stoudemire, again playing with heavy padding on his stitched-up left hand, battled foul trouble and finished with just 14 points. He picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, with the Knicks trailing by 10. By the time he returned, the deficit had grown to 17.
The Knicks’ demise seemed inevitable, and only slightly overdue. They went 0-3 to start the series, a deficit no N.B.A. team has ever overcome. They are the 101st team to fail.
By tip-off, the Knicks were down to their third-string point guard (Bibby) and a bench with few useful bodies. Novak, their 3-point ace, was thoroughly shut down by the Heat.
The Knicks were also undermined by a string of misfortune: the April surgery on Lin’s knee, the illness that drained Chandler before Game 1, the devastating knee injuries to Iman Shumpert and Davis and Stoudemire’s glass-shattering, hand-slicing moment of madness after Game 2.
Stoudemire averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in the series, but it will be his smashing of a glass fire-extinguisher cover — which caused him to miss Game 3 — that will forever mark this postseason.
As Stoudemire walked to the bench after fouling out, the public-address announcer sent him off with a gleeful final insult: “He has been extinguished from the game.”