The dunk was mere punctuation, an exclamation point for added emphasis and extra style points. The real message was sent a second or two earlier, the second LeBron James jumped the route, stepped in front of Carmelo Anthony and picked off the pass from J.R. Smith.

The instant the ball met James’ fingertips, Anthony’s shoulders sagged. Smith’s head bowed. The Heat don’t just beat you now they defeat you, they demoralize you, they humble you, they take the wind out of your lungs and the bounce out of your step and the energy out of your arena.

LeBron leading the parade every time.

“His motor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “is limitless.”

So, too, are the ways yesterday’s outcome — Heat 99, Knicks 93 — hurt like an uppercut to the Knicks’ solar plexus. There was a fair chunk of this game when you could almost see what the 19,033 inside the Garden were thinking, and feeling, trying to project all of this ahead a few months, sometime in late May or early June.

And when the Knicks led by 16 late in the second quarter, that was a fine thing for them to be thinking, and feeling, and dreaming about. By the end, when James was making play after play, shot after shot, stop after stop, it was still possible to think about what a match-up like this might look like in the playoffs.

It just wasn’t nearly as much fun then.

“They’re a good team — a great team — and you’ve got to do everything right to beat that team,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.

And that may have been the most desultory part of it all. For extended stretches, the Knicks did precisely that, played exactly as you must to stand toe-to-toe with Miami. They were aggressive on both sides of the ball, they were fearless, they got a throwback game from Jason Kidd (4-for-5 from 3, six assists, three steals) and a brilliant half from Anthony and even some terrific work underneath from Amar’e Stoudemire.