Knicks vs. Heat 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
On Thursday, the Knicks arrived in Miami to workout before the showdown against their Eastern Conference rival. After falling to Cleveland on Wednesday, New York sits at 7-11 this year and is hoping to salvage the road trip with games in Miami and Houston before returning home on Sunday. Carmelo Anthony is banged up heading into the highly anticipated matchup with a sore thumb, sprained left wrist, and sprained right ankle. Baron Davis continues to shows diligent work on the rehab front but the point guard remains cautious in rushing back to the floor. The Knicks will shootaround on Friday morning, which should provide more information as far as the potential return date for Davis.
It seems most fans would deem the 2010-11 Miami Heat season a failure after the Big Three joined forces and promised South Beach the start of a dynastic title run. However, among all the criticism, the Heat were just two wins away from an NBA Championship and return a nucleus that features one of the most dynamic tandems in all of basketball. During the shortened free agency period, Miami made an extremely underrated acquisition by inking defensive specialist and three-point marksman Shane Battier. The Heat also added former Knicks center Eddy Curry and drafted guard Norris Cole. At 13-5, Miami leads the Southeast, interesting enough without All-Star Dwyane Wade for the past six games due to a sprained right ankle. The Heat have found a way to capture victories behind the spectacular play of LeBron James and Chris Bosh as Wade sits in street clothes. Wade is listed as day-to-day and could potentially return on Friday night. With five wins in its last six games, Miami enters the matchup against New York after back-to-back wins.
Last Time Out
The Knicks suffered a 91-81 loss in the second of a back-to-back on Wednesday night in Cleveland. Amar’e Stoudemire led New York with 19 points, 14 rebounds, and two steals.
James hit clutch free throws down the stretch in helping hold off Detroit on Wednesday night. Miami secured the 101-98 win after allowing the Pistons to rally back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Numbers Game
Last February, New York battled back from a 15-point first half deficit and closed out the Heat in Miami behind a 13-2 run to record a 91-86 victory.
Match-up to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. LeBron James
James is off to an MVP start to the 2011-12 season by averaging 29.1 points, eight rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. There is not a major difference in his style of game this year. James continues to attack in the open floor, damages opponents with a step-back jumper, and is one of the best distributors of the rock from the small forward spot in the NBA. On the opposite side, Anthony has enjoyed great success against his good friend and 2003 NBA Draft class mate. Unfortunately, the Knicks small forward is battling a host of injuries but his squad needs a strong offensive and defensive performance on Friday night. Anthony has shown an ability to rebound and involve his teammates in the offense when his jumper is not falling. His playmaking skills will go a long way in helping the Knicks overcome a swarming defensive team in Miami.
What to Look For
Stoudemire stated it best after Wednesday's game regarding the upcoming battle against Miami, “I’m born ready for these type of games. It’s what I live for.” New York will have to rise to the occasion as it did against Boston on opening day, Philadelphia, and even in a close loss to Orlando this month. From a statistical standpoint, the Heat have somewhat reversed their rankings on both sides of the floor. Last year, Miami was regarded as an elite defensive team but his year, the squad ranks 22nd in points allowed per game. Conversely, the Heat own offensive firepower as the second best team in the league in terms of points per game at 104.4. They also dish out 21.7 assists per outing, which will force the Knicks to shift quickly around the perimeter and move on a string to avoid allowing open shooters.