There was no easing back into the mix. Not for Dwyane Wade. Not for Carmelo Anthony.

Not when the rest of the play was this ragged, when shooting percentages were meager, points scarce.

Sunday night's 86-79 Miami Heat victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden largely was reduced to a two-man game for both sides.

And then star vs. star.

That meant Anthony, after returning following a two-game absence with back spasms, had to step up for the Knicks alongside Amare Stoudemire.

And it meant Wade's first game back after missing seven with a strained left hamstring had to be part of a one-two punch with Heat center Chris Bosh.

Advantage Wade.

Advantage Heat.

"My job was to make sure I closed it out for us," Wade said after he recovered from a 1-of-6 start to close with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, with five assists and five rebounds. "It took a while. I haven't played in two and a half weeks."

So back and forth Wade and Anthony went in the fourth quarter, by then even their sidekicks stepping aside, save for a key late 3-pointer by Bosh.

Anthony closed with 31 points for the Knicks, but couldn't trump Wade when it counted most, closing 11 of 26 from the field.

"He has a way of making us better," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra understated of Wade. "He said he played too many minutes. I said, 'Welcome back.' "

Actually, Wade said he was fine with his 32 minutes, 17 seconds, expecting to also play on the second night of the back-to-back set Monday at the Verizon Center against the Washington Wizards.