Heat beat Knicks to lead series 3-0

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - LeBron James awoke from a third-quarter slumber with a vengeance to lead the visiting Miami Heat to an 87-70 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday and a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.

Miami dealt the Knicks a record-setting 13 successive playoff defeat dating back to April 2001 and put themselves on the brink of reaching the second round. No NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs.

James sat out the last seven-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter after picking up his fourth personal foul in a ferocious defensive struggle that Miami led 58-56 going into the final quarter.

Two three-pointers and a follow-up from under the basket, all from James, powered the Heat to a 66-56 lead after 89 seconds of the fourth quarter, and Miami extended the lead to 77-62 to put the game out of reach.

James led the Heat with 32 points, 17 of them coming in the last quarter, and Wade added 20 points, including 10 in the third quarter to carry Miami in the absence of James.

Before his fourth-quarter burst, James had a frustrating game, committing eight turnovers in an ugly offensive showing from both clubs as players had a hard time dealing with the clawing defense played.

Struggling even more was New York's premier scorer, Carmelo Anthony, who shot a woeful seven-of-23 from the floor to lead the losers with 22 points.

The undermanned Knicks, playing without Amar'e Stoudemire who badly cut his left hand after hitting a fire extinguisher case in anger after New York's Game Two loss, must now sweep four games to advance against last year's NBA Finals runner-up.

Game Four will be played at the Garden on Sunday.

(Reporting By Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)