The two-time defending champion Miami Heat (32-13) will play a road matchup against the New York Knicks (19-27) on Saturday.
This showdown will be the second of four meetings between these two Eastern Conference foes in 2013-14. In the previous matchup on Jan. 9, the Knicks came away victorious at home.
Head coach Mike Woodson decided to bench struggling guard J.R. Smith, which managed to help propel New York to a 10-point, 102-92 win.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Raymond Felton added 13 points and 14 assists out of the point guard spot.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said after the loss, "All I know about this game is they outplayed us and they earned that win," per the Associated Press (via ESPN).
The Heat have sputtered recently, posting a 5-5 record in their past 10 games. D-Wade was absent for five of those contests due to general soreness.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have been on a bit of a hot streak. Since Andrea Bargnani went down with an elbow injury on Jan. 22 against the Philadelphia 76ers, New York has rattled off four straight wins.
The team is playing much better now that Anthony is playing primarily at the 4 spot. He’s averaging 37.5 points per game during the four-game win streak, which included a 62-point outburst against the Charlotte Bobcats.
So can the Knicks upset Miami for the second time since Jan. 9?
When: Saturday, Feb. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Stream: Watch ESPN
Heat Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
No injuries reported
Knicks Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PF Kenyon Martin, Questionable, Ankle
SG Iman Shumpert, Questionable, Shoulder
PG Beno Udrih, Questionable, Illness
PF/C Andrea Bargnani, Out, Elbow
PF/C Amar’e Stoudemire, Out, Ankle
Heat Player to Watch: Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh averaged 18.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point land in the month of January.
He played extremely consistent for the entire calendar month, but his worst game during that span occurred against the Knicks. His six-point letdown on Jan. 9 ensured a road loss in Madison Square Garden, so it will be interesting to see how Bosh responds this time around.
LBJ should record his usual 26-6-6 numbers, but Wade has been an enigma in recent weeks. He played well in a loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 29, but questionable health continues to hold him back from time to time.
As a result, Miami will need a big-time performance from Bosh if it hopes to slow down a hot Knicks squad.
Knicks Player to Watch: J.R. Smith
While Bosh played and struggled against the Knicks in their last meeting, J.R. Smith didn’t record a single minute.
Coach Woodson decided to bench last season’s Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, a decision that paid off handsomely with a win.
I expect Smith to play with a chip on his shoulder to prove that the Knicks can compete with the NBA’s elite when he’s in the lineup.
He’s in the midst of a dreadful season—shooting a career-low 37.8 percent from the field—but he’s turned his fortunes around a bit during the recent win streak.
Over the past four games (all wins), Smith is averaging 16.5 points on 49 percent shooting.
Key Matchup: LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony
Anytime these two Eastern Conference opponents compete against one another, the key matchup will be Kings James versus ‘Melo.
Anthony has been on an absolute tear of late, displaying exactly why he won the NBA scoring title in 2012-13. In his last four games he’s posted 62, 35, 24 and 29 points, respectively. He’s scored 20 or more in 10 straight.
James has continued to play extremely efficiently, but Kevin Durant’s Thunder blew out Miami on the road, 112-95, in the Heat’s last game.
LBJ won’t want to suffer back-to-back losses against KD and ‘Melo, so don’t be surprised if he goes off at MSG by scoring 40 or more for the first time this season.
As stated earlier, the Knicks have been riding a hot streak since Bargs suffered the elbow injury. They’ve won four in a row, but those wins have come against the Bobcats, Lakers, Celtics and Cavaliers—admittedly lackluster competition.
Which team will win?
The Knicks will be without Bargnani and Stoudemire, while Martin, Shumpert and Udrih are all questionable for Saturday’s matchup. A lack of depth may ultimately be New York’s downfall.
Miami will face a tough road test, but the Heat have only lost two games in a row three times this season (once during a back-to-back situation).
I believe the Knicks will compete with Miami again, but James, Wade and Bosh should be able to carry their team to a road victory.
Heat 100 — Knicks 96