It’s always a hyped game when LeBron James visits Madison Square Garden, and other than Cleveland no city probably despises James now more than New York. And Knicks star Amare Stoudemire added a bit of bulletin-board material for tonight’s game when he said: "Nobody's afraid of the Miami Heat.”
Incidentally, the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced tonight on TNT as well, with James, Dwyane Wade and Stoudemire all pretty much locks to be among the East’s starting five.
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How the Teams Enter
The Knicks were playing their worst ball of the season, having lost six games in a row, before beating Washington, 115-106, at the Garden on Monday behind 30 points and nine rebounds from Stoudemire. After scoring 30 points or more in nine straight games earlier this season, Stoudemire has only scored 30 points or more in a game twice in the month of January. Stoudemire had been held to 18 points in each of the Knicks' last two losses after scoring 20 or more in 26 consecutive games.
Miami has been off since ending a four-game losing streak with a 120-103 home win over Toronto. Both Chris Bosh and Wade sat that one out and LeBron moved to power forward to sub for Bosh and had 38 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Miller filled in well for Wade with a season-high 32 points. Entering that game Miller had 15 points all season.
Heat at Knicks Story Lines
The injury news is key here regarding the Heat. Bosh won’t play tonight and didn’t even make the trip to New York with his sprained ankle. He’s likely out at least until late next week. James will continue to start at the No. 4 spot, and Coach Erik Spoelstra said he would probably go with a small lineup tonight against the fast-paced Knicks and with Bosh out. Wade, meanwhile, has been practicing after missing Saturday’s game with migraines. He is expected to play but might have to wear tinted glasses as bright lights still bother him a bit. Key reserve Eddie House also should play despite missing practice earlier this week.
That Raptors game marked the first with the Heat starting Mario Chalmers over Carlos Arroyo at point guard, a move that is expected to be permanent. Chalmers didn’t miss a shot from the field and had 10 points and nine assists.
The Heat won the two previous meetings this season – 113-91 in New York on Dec. 17 and 107-98 in Miami on Dec. 28. James and Wade combined for 58 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists in at win at the Garden, while Bosh averaged 22 points and 8.5 rebounds in the two wins. When LeBron and Wade have been on the floor without Bosh this season, opponents have outscored Miami by 34 points.
It’s hard to get too excited over New York’s home win over the Wizards, who have yet to win a road game this season. Plus the Knicks allowed the Wizards to score 62 first-half points -- 15 above their average, which is fifth-worst in the league. What was an encouraging sign was the improved play of point guard Raymond Felton, who is really the key to this team. Felton had 17 points and 15 assists against the Wiz. Felton had been struggling big time, going 23 for 79 from the field in the previous five games. He was 7 of 14 Monday and the Knicks turned it over only 11 times. The Knicks are 15-4 this season when Felton has double-figure points and assists in a game.
Heat at Knicks Betting Odds and Key Trends
Miami is a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 211, according to NBA betting odds. You can find this line at four at some books. The total has risen three points at most books with the news that Wade is expected to play, and the line generally has risen a point. The Heat are 15-8 on the road and 13-9-1 ATS. The Knicks are 11-9 at home and 10-9-1 ATS. Miami was a five-point favorite in the first meeting at the Garden.
The Heat are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 as a road favorite.
New York is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 as an underdog under five points.
The ‘over’ is 5-0 ATS in Miami’s past five road games.
The ‘over’ is 4-0 ATS in the Knicks’ past four at home as an underdog under five points.
The Heat are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
NBA Picks: Heat at Knicks Thursday NBA on TNT Predictions
I think Stoudemire’s quote, while really saying nothing, will fire up LeBron, who really never needs a reason to get amped up at the Garden, and Wade. Plus the Heat should be plenty fresh with all the time off. The Knicks don’t have much size, so not having Bosh shouldn’t be a major problem. Take the Heat and the ‘over’ because the Knicks can’t stop anyone but can score with anyone.
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