Updated: March 4, 2013, 1:13 AM ET

1. LeBron Makes Sure Pain Belongs To Knicks

By Brian Windhorst | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Lying on the court, with teammates and cameras hovering, there was an unusual look on LeBron James' face as he wrapped his hands around his left knee after twisting it under his body in an awkward fall Sunday afternoon.

The James grimace face is patented by now and, frankly, is sometimes exaggerated for effect. James has done some light acting in his career but his laying the foundation for future fouls has always been better than his "Saturday Night Live" work.

There was no scowl this time. His eyes were wide open and his face was still as he waited to see how his leg reacted to movement and pressure. He has turned his ankle dozens of times and walked it off; one of the benefits of having ankles as thick as the average man's shoulder. But the knee is a danger zone for any athlete, and James grasped it unknowingly.

"I was concerned," he said afterward, the knee wrapped in ice. "I'm still concerned."

LeBron James
Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports There went LeBron James, off to the races to deliver a 14th straight win for the Miami Heat.

Earlier on the court, he gingerly got up and shook his leg, as you might a finger after jamming it. He rubbed and tested it.

And then he smothered the New York Knicks for the rest of the game in the Miami Heat's 99-93 victory. It was the Heat's 14th straight win and put them 7½ games up on the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. A month ago, they were tied.

"He's like Superman," Chris Bosh said. "We don't expect him ever to get hurt."

"You've ever seen him get hurt?" Carmelo Anthony asked. "He never gets hurt. We weren't buying that."

It's easy to present a statistical case for why James is playing the best ball of his career. Measurables and historical databases have been getting a daily workout. There has been a stream of numbers generated to illustrate just how well James has been shooting, rebounding and defending this season.

On Sunday, though, James showed the true basis for his status as the game's top player. On a day when his stats said he was really just slightly above his standard -- 29 points with 52 percent shooting, 11 rebounds and 7 assists -- he was physically stupefying.

James made a handful of plays that would qualify as a season highlight for most of the players he shared the floor with. Calling himself "king" and using a lion as one of his logos may annoy some and come off as narcissistic. But in a sport filled with alpha males from across the world, James doesn't seem to have a peer.

In the first half, he executed what will probably be one of the best give-and-go plays you will ever see. After firing a long pass to Dwyane Wade, James took off on a dead sprint, covering about 80 feet in about three seconds as he zoomed past three unsuspecting Knicks players. Wade caught the pass, dribbled and tossed it to James for a dunk as the Knick players went frozen, wondering where James had come from.

Hadn't he just been on the other side of the court?

"I didn't stop running," James said. "I saw three Knick guys in front of me but I felt like I could beat them down the court. Melo didn't see me take off, and once he turned and saw me it was too late."

In the second half, with the Heat in the midst of wiping out a 16-point Knicks lead, James took over as Anthony's main defender. There were double-teams and there were some switches, but for the most part James was responsible for Anthony and keeping him out of his preferred comfort zones.

After he went 6-of-8 from the field and got to the line 12 times in the first half on his way to 24 points in the first half, Anthony went 3-of-11 and had just two free throws in the second half.

In short, Anthony just couldn't move him, couldn't draw fouls on him and had lots of trouble shooting over him.

In the fourth quarter, when James eschewed his normal five minutes of rest and played the entire second half, he made several plays that featured pure physical dominance. During one sequence, he rotated over to challenge Tyson Chandler after he'd sprung wide open after slipping through a pick-and-roll.

James met Chandler mid-air and blocked his shot, kicking off a fast break. Then he raced to the other end and plucked an offensive rebound and put it back in for a four-point swing that proved to be a vital sequence in the Heat's turnaround.

Then in the final minute, James sealed the game when J.R. Smith made the mistake of throwing a lazy pass toward Anthony with the Knicks down four points. James screeched in to intercept it and covered half the court in 2.2 seconds -- according to the official timesheet, at least -- for a dunk that sent the fans to the exits.

"It's endless; his motor is limitless," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was the strongest after 40 minutes of basketball."

James has had numerous games this season in which you could have called his performance more "dominant" than he was Sunday. He has had highlight alley-oops that were more stylish. He has shut down his opponent with more efficiency.

But he has not had one when he more physically controlled the game, a game that was meaningful to the Heat's mindset as it made up for two earlier 20-point losses to the Knicks. If he had just one game to submit for his MVP candidacy, it wouldn't be any of his triple-doubles; his 40-point, 16-assist game; or his 39-point, 12-rebound effort in Oklahoma City two weeks ago.

It would be what he did to the Knicks on Sunday, shaking off a near-miss of injury to muscle his way to another win, and now the longest winning streak of his career.

"As a team and me as an individual, I don't think we've ever played better," James said. "For me, I categorize my play with team success. I've been able to play well and we've been able to win. This is the best so far."

Dimes past: Feb. 21 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | March 1-2 | Sloan/MIT, Day 1 | Day 2

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