MIAMI – Dwyane Wade exploded for 55 points to lead the Miami Heat to 122-105 victory over New York and underscore his claim to National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player honors.
Wade shot 19-for-30 from the field, set a career high with six three-pointers, and fell one shy of Glen Rice's franchise record of 56 points before leaving the game with 1:06 to play.
"I came in early and I was very focused," Wade said. "My teammates thought something was wrong with me because I wasn't talking."
Michael Beasley finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat, and Mario Chalmers chipped in 15.
Wade scored for the final time with 5:31 remaining. He thwarted the Knicks' attempts to defend him, diving for loose balls and also collecting nine rebounds.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra resisted the urgings of fans and at least one member of his coaching staff to leave Wade in the game for a chance at breaking Rice's record.
"He's broken every other record," Spoelstra said. "Let's leave one of them to Glen Rice."
Wade's performance was the 11th 50-point game in the NBA this season, the third by Wade - matching Cleveland star LeBron James for the league's high.
It was the third 50-point game against the Knicks.
Reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant got the league's season-leading total with 61 in Madison Square Garden on February 2, and James scored 52 at New York's famed arena two nights later.
Wade now has six of the eight highest-scoring games in Heat history, four of them this season.
Wade reached 50 points with 26.4 seconds to play in the third quarter as the Heat took a six-point lead into the final quarter.
At that point, Wade had scored 50 points and the rest of his Heat teammates had scored 47 combined.
He became the first player since Lakers superstar Bryant to score 50 before the fourth quarter began.
Bryant did it on November 30, 2006 against Utah, getting 52 through three periods and not playing in the fourth.
Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler each scored 21 points for New York, who scored just 17 points in the first nine minutes but poured in 48 in the next 14 minutes as they took a 65-63 lead at halftime.
The Knicks shot 68 percent in the second quarter, but Wade's sensational performance meant it was in vain.
"He just made them all tonight," Harrington said. "When he is hot, you are in for a long night."
With the win and Toronto's 111-104 victory over Philadelphia, the Heat secured the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"We got some help from those guys," said Heat forward Jermaine O'Neal, who was traded to Miami from Toronto, with Shawn Marion going to the Raptors in February. "And we took care of our business."
It's a remarkable turnaround for a Heat team that finished last in the NBA last season, and Wade believes every game is a step toward continuing that resurgence.
"This wasn't just another game," Wade said. "This was a very important game for us."