Anthony finally bowed to his many injuries — an ankle, a wrist and a thumb among them — leaving the Knicks to battle LeBron James and Dwyane Wade without their most dynamic force. The Knicks compensated with a hailstorm of 3-pointers, an energized Bill Walker and just enough resolve to make the night interesting to the Miami Heat.
It was the Knicks’ eighth loss in nine games, but they may have reclaimed a little confidence along the way.
Walker wrestled with James and led the Knicks with 21 points. Amar’e Stoudemire barked at Wade and pounced on loose balls. They battled the Heat deep into the fourth quarter when James went on a scoring binge to put the game away.
“I thought we fought our tails off,” Tyson Chandler said, almost beaming. “As far as effort, we gave it everything we had. And we ran things the way that we’re supposed to.”
James scored 31 points, 12 in the final five minutes, helping the Heat pull away after the Knicks had pulled to 5 points behind. Wade had 28 points, showing no ill effects from a sprained ankle that caused him to miss the previous six games.
The Knicks (7-12) conclude their trip Saturday in Houston. They will again be without Anthony, who agreed to take at least two games off to recover from his many injuries. He could return for Tuesday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.
For now, the Knicks at least have the sense that they can compete without him. Stoudemire had a rough night, going 5 for 14 from the field while the Heat sent multiple defenders at him on every touch. He finished with 12 points and 4 turnovers, but took care not to force the action against the Heat’s swarming defense.
“The game was going well for a lot of other guys,” Stoudemire said. “Moving the ball was key for us.”
Walker was the main beneficiary, setting career highs in 3-pointers made (7) and attempted (10). In the third quarter, he hit three 3s in a 69-second burst. Toney Douglas, who rejoined the starting lineup, went 4 for 8 from the arc and had 16 points. Landry Fields, who replaced Anthony at small forward, had 14 points.
The Knicks kept pace all night by shooting 3-pointers at a mind-numbing rate, making 18 of their 43 tries, the most any team has attempted this season. They finished with more 3-pointers than 2-pointers (12). They sank 14 3-pointers before Miami (14-5) hit its first, by Shane Battier late in the third quarter.
The 3-point barrage was not by design, but emerged out of necessity. Without Anthony to break down the defense, the Knicks had few other options.
“We tried to exploit what they gave us,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Knicks tied the score for the last time on a 3-pointer by Steve Novak in the fourth quarter before Miami pulled away for good with an 8-1 surge.
“I’m proud of our guys,” D’Antoni said. “They fought. They can’t play any harder than what they did. They’re in good spirits, so we’ll just keep trying to get a little bit better.”
The Knicks announced the plans to rest Anthony at their morning shootaround, a decision that D’Antoni said was “for the better of everybody.”
“We’ve got to have him 100 percent, or we don’t have a chance,” he said.
Anthony shot an abysmal 31.7 percent from the field (40 for 126) over his last six games, all after spraining his left (nonshooting) wrist and his right ankle in a Jan. 12 loss to Memphis. Adding to his troubles, he sprained his right thumb Tuesday and scored a career-low 1 point against Charlotte.
“I think I was trying to be a superhero, trying to prove to my teammates that I can play hurt, trying to hide it,” Anthony said. “But at the end of the day, me doing that, it wasn’t really doing nothing but hurting the team.”
Without Anthony, the Knicks figured to lean harder on Stoudemire. But he missed his first five shots in a strange but entertaining first half.
The Heat provided the entertainment with a series of circus dunks by James and Wade. The Knicks provided the strange, making twice as many 3-pointers (10) as 2-pointers (5) and briefly taking a 6-point lead despite their overall struggles from the field.