Having shown signs of turning things around of late, the New York Knicks will get a chance to see just how far they've come against the two-time defending NBA champions.
Carmelo Anthony has saved some of his best performances for the Miami Heat, a trend he hopes to continue as the teams meet for the first time this season Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony knocked down three straight 3-pointers Tuesday during a 15-0 third-quarter run for the Knicks (12-22), who kept moving in a positive direction with an 89-85 victory over visiting Detroit.
Anthony finished with 34 points and hit a season-high six 3s as New York won for the third time in four games since the six-time All-Star returned from a three-game absence because of a sprained left ankle.
"He's capable of doing that," coach Mike Woodson said. "Some nights you have to expect that from Melo, but it can't always be Melo."
The supporting cast, however, has been decimated by injuries and illness, though Raymond Felton returned Tuesday following a six-game absence because of a groin injury.
J.R. Smith hasn't been able to step up, averaging 6.5 points and missing 13 of 16 from 3-point range over his last four games. On Wednesday, the league fined the reigning Sixth Man of the Year $50,000 for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct" after he tried to untie an opponent's sneaker for a second time in two games.
The Knicks might not have a choice but to rely on Anthony as they go for their first three-game winning streak in what Woodson has called a critical stretch.
Anthony has averaged 38.5 points in his last four regular-season meetings with Southeast-leading Miami (27-8). He matched a career-high with 50 on 18-of-26 shooting -- hitting 7 of 10 3s -- as New York took three of four in last season's series with a 102-90 road win April 2.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did not play in that contest as the Heat gave their stars plenty of rest down the stretch.
On Tuesday, James finished with 32 points and Wade added 22 to lead Miami to its third straight win, 107-88 over visiting New Orleans.
The Heat, who have won 11 of 13, trailed by as many as 11 before running away against the Pelicans. Miami has trailed at the half in four of its last six wins.
"We're an old team, man," Wade said. "It takes us a while sometimes to get the juices flowing. Playing against a lot of young teams, they come in loose, ready. We've got to get our body going a little bit."
James, who leads all non-centers with a 58.9 field-goal percentage this season, has scored 33.0 points per game at MSG since 2007-08 -- his highest average in any Eastern Conference venue. Two of his nine 50-point performances have come there, though both were with the Cavaliers.
While they lead the NBA with a 51.1 shooting percentage, the Heat also have scored 108.5 points per game over their last 10. They could have a more difficult time against the Knicks, who have given up a total of 165 points on 39.0 percent shooting -- including 9 for 45 from 3-point range -- in their back-to-back wins.