What does LeBron James get as an encore to his matchup with NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant?
It's a date at Madison Square Garden with Carmelo Anthony, who rivals Durant as James' toughest defensive assignment in the league.
James and the Heat look to rebound from Wednesday's blowout loss to Oklahoma City when they return to action Saturday in New York to face Anthony and a Knicks team riding a four-game win streak. The Knicks began their recent surge against Charlotte last Friday, when Anthony set a new Garden record with a career-high 62 points in a rout of the Bobcats.
The Heat have typically used multiple defenders on Anthony, with James as the primary option because they play the same forward position. It's another difficult assignment that warrants James' full focus on the heels of his showdown with Durant.
"It's not much of a difference," James said of the task of defending Anthony and Durant. "They're two scoring machines and they put you in a lot of isolation situations. You just have to make it tough on them, but they're going to make shots. You just try to get a hand up, and you live with the results."
With two high-profile games in a span of four days, there wasn't much time for James to reflect on the Heat's 112-95 loss to the Thunder. James had a game-high 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 42 minutes. Durant countered with 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.
There are usually just as many fireworks when James and Anthony square off in the Garden. Anthony had 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals on Jan. 9 in New York’s 102-92 home victory against Miami. Ironically, James outscored both Durant and Anthony in their meetings this season, but the Heat lost both times. New York has won four of the past five regular-season games against Miami.
The setback against the Knicks earlier this month was the start of a season-long, three-game losing streak for Miami. With Durant leading the Thunder into Friday’s game at Brooklyn and the Heat returning on the eve of the Super Bowl in New York, James joked there is no shame in the Heat-Knicks matchup being seen as far less than the biggest game in town.
“It’s going to be hectic, a lot of traffic, but in New York there’s always traffic,” James said. “But to be there Super Bowl Sunday -- there’s going to be a lot going on. Obviously, our game is less important than the Super Bowl, but it’s a meaningful game for us and we look forward to trying to go there and get a win.”
After being named an All-Star reserve for the ninth time in his 11-year career, Chris Bosh said he appreciates the NBA coaches who are able to gauge his impact on the court beyond the statistics.
Bosh wrapped up his best month of the season in January and has averaged 20.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. He shot 56.8 percent from the field overall and has already set a career high with 33 made 3-pointers through 44 games. The nod from Eastern Conference coaches ensured that Bosh, James and Dwyane Wade will be represented at All-Star Weekend for the fourth straight season as teammates.
There have been times in the past when Bosh has had to sweat out the selection process, and he once famously made a campaign commercial to generate support during his time with the Toronto Raptors. But since coming to Miami in 2010, Bosh said it’s been a challenge at times to show his real value because his role and position has changed seemingly each of the past three seasons.
The All-Star experience grows more rewarding each time he’s selected.
“It’s still a big deal for me,” Bosh said. “Every year it’s a question mark for me, to be honest with you. I have to play a different role and I have to play well in that role. And it’s changed every year that I’ve been here. I still find a way to kind of get it done. It’s a good feeling.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said regardless of the numbers, it should be obvious that Bosh is not only one of the best players in the conference but still one of the more elite talents in the league.
“I think he has the respect of the league, the coaches and the players,” Spoelstra said. “That’s good to see because he’s not a stat-hunter. People see him as a champion, as a winner, willing to do whatever it takes. If that means sacrificing opportunities, shots, but still having an impact on winning, I think it’s great that he’s acknowledged for that.”
Spoelstra said everyone for the Heat did some work in Friday’s practice and is expected to be available Saturday in New York. The Knicks have been without forward Andrea Bargnani (elbow), forward Kenyon Martin (ankle) and center Amar’e Stoudemire (ankle) the past few games.
Did you know?:
When Wade entered the league in 2003, former Heat point guard and Hall of Fame finalist Tim Hardaway was a mentor who had just completed his final NBA season. Now, Wade will spend time Saturday matched up against Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., who used to play around as a kid in the Heat’s practice facility during Wade’s earlier years.
“You see him check in the game and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable,’” Wade said of Hardaway Jr., who scored a career-high 29 points Thursday against Cleveland. “It’s cool from that sense, being kind of like an older brother. Timmy Jr. has a very good chance in this league to be good for multiple years.”
Quote of the day:
“Hopefully, the trend continues. Hopefully we can start them back to losing four in a row tomorrow.”
-- LeBron James, when told the Knicks have responded with four consecutive wins after five straight losses.