MIAMI — The Miami Heat had a lot to overcome on Sunday.
They were down 16-3 in a start that coach Erik Spoelstra described as “flummoxing.”
They were picked apart by New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith, who scored 32 points and set a franchise record with 10 3-pointers.
And the Heat were without four injured players, including starting guard Dwyane Wade and rotation members Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Greg Oden at center.
But despite all the obstacles, the Heat, led by forward LeBron James’ 38 points, issued a damaging 102-91 defeat to the Knicks Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Spoelstra said the Heat made the mistake of allowing Smith some “clean” looks in a 17-point first half.
“The last four or five he made, I don’t know if you can defend any better than that,” Spoelstra said. “But that’s the karma of the game. You let a shooter get momentum, and all of a sudden, the basket gets bigger and bigger.”
Despite his record-setting day, Smith wasn’t that efficient. He made just 11 of 28 shots, including 10 of 22 on 3-pointers. The 22 attempts is an NBA record.
As a team, the Knicks shot just 37.5 percent.
Miami, in contrast, made 55.7 percent, including 13 of 22 by James.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony was held to 13 points, making just 4 of 17 shots. He had just two points in the second half.
Heat reserve forward Shane Battier, who played 31 minutes, spent much of his day guarding Anthony.
“I respect the hell out of Carmelo,” he said. “He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve had to guard in my career. There are days when he has put up big numbers on me. And there are nights where I have made him work.”
The Heat took the season series from the Knicks 3-1 and James scored more than 30 points in all four games. The last player to post four 30-plus games against the Knicks in one season was Michael Jordan in 1996-97.
The Knicks (33-45) fell 1 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks in the battle for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are also three games ahead in the loss column heading into their game Sunday night at the Indiana Pacers.
Miami (53-23) took a half-game lead over the Pacers in the battle for the top seed in the East, pending Indiana’s game Sunday night.
James extended his lead to 14-12 in his rivalry with Anthony in terms of wins and losses, head-to-head, in their NBA careers.
Anthony, who had averaged 34 points in his past seven games against Miami, was bothered Sunday by a sore right shoulder that he has described as a “deep bruise” or a light sprain.
“Carmelo is hurting a little bit, but I could not afford to rest him,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “He is giving us what he’s got.”
The Heat made several turnovers early, including three in the first 1:14. But Miami battled back to trail just 26-25 after the first quarter.
Miami shot 60 percent in the quarter to help overcome its six turnovers, four of them by James.
“We had some huddles (in the first quarter), where we were verbally spitting at each other,” Spoelstra said. “No offense (meant) to the Knicks, but our turnovers were unforced. It was bizarre.”
New York fell behind by eight points in the second quarter as Miami was in the midst of a 17-1 run. But the Knicks battled back to take a 50-48 lead at halftime.
James, who had just one turnover after the first quarter, had 16 points at the half.
Miami took a 73-64 lead after three quarters as the Knicks’ shooters went cold. The Knicks scored just 14 points — two by Anthony — in the quarter, shooting 26.1 percent from the floor.
In the fourth quarter, the Knicks got to within 97-91 on a Smith 3-pointer with 1:51 left. But a 3-pointer by Heat forward Chris Bosh with 1:32 pretty much sealed the deal.
“I was hotter in the first half than in the second,” Smith said. “I got some open looks early. But (the Heat) did a good job (adjusting).”
NOTES: In Sunday’s first quarter, Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr. tried to wrap up Heat F LeBron James on a breakaway. James made the basket anyway and then flexed his massive biceps. … Heat Cs Chris “Birdman” Andersen (knee and back) and Justin Hamilton (cold) sat out Sunday’s game. … Heat SG Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and C Greg Oden (back) sat out their sixth straight game. … The Knicks were happy Wade sat out because he has burned them for a 22.7-points scoring average in three games this season. He has also made 72.1 percent of his shots against the Knicks, his best percentage vs. any team in the NBA. … Heat SG Ray Allen is a finalist for the J. Walter Kennedy Award for community service. Heat C Chris Bosh is a finalist for the Magic Johnson Award given to the player who combines excellence on the court with cooperation with the media and fans. … Miami’s five-game homestand concludes Tuesday vs. the Brooklyn Nets. … The Knicks are off until Friday, when they visit the Toronto Raptors.
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