- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's the game before The Game.
The Knicks will visit an improved Charlotte Bobcats team Wednesday night, a day before their showdown Thursday in Miami against the Heat.
Here are a few things to watch:
HOW SHARP ARE FELTON AND KIDD? Raymond Felton will play through pain on Wednesday. The Knicks' starting point guard suffered a bone bruise and contusion in the lower portion of his left hand and will play with added padding on his left thumb and palm.
Felton said his hand is still sore, so how will that affect him on the floor? He said on Tuesday that he might feel discomfort while catching a pass, but his shot and ability to handle the ball should not be affected.
Also in the backcourt, Jason Kidd will play for the first time in 10 days. Kidd, 39, has missed the past four games due to lower back spams. He said on Tuesday that he feels no pain in his back. He will come off the bench on Wednesday and his minutes will be limited because the Knicks have the second game of a back to back on Thursday and play four games in five nights.
Point guard play has been a key factor in the Knicks' 12-4 start. They have the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league and average the fewest turnovers per game, thanks in large part to their floor generals.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH? Carmelo Anthony's one of the hottest players in the NBA, averaging 30.7 points over the Knicks' last six. Anthony was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday and is a strong candidate to win the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.
His 26.6 per game average is the second-highest in the league. And Anthony ranks eighth in PER, a ranking of a player's per-minute production developed by ESPN's John Hollinger.
It should be noted, however, that Anthony struggled mightily in his last game against Charlotte. He scored a career-low one point while missing all seven shots from the field in the Knicks' blowout win on Jan. 24.
This season, Anthony has found a way to impact the game when he doesn't score (see his performance vs. San Antonio earlier this year), so if he has a tough time scoring on Wednesday, look for him to find other ways to help the Knicks.
CATS' MEOW: The Knicks have lost three of four road games but, if previous statistics are any indication, they should be able to take care of business against Charlotte. New York ranks first in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) and 10th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), while Charlotte ranks 27th and 22nd, respectively.
The teams have a similar rebounding rate (percentage of missed shots a team rebounds) and the Knicks, who've won seven of their last nine vs. Charlotte, turn it over nearly four fewer times per game than the Bobcats.