New York Knicks (13-4) vs. Miami Heat (12-4)
On the first Friday of the season, the Knicks had a chance to make a statement. There was a lot of emotion at Madison Square Garden that night. New York's previous game against Brooklyn was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy and there were still a lot of people who were unsure whether the city was ready (even logistically) to host a mega NBA game between the Knicks and Heat.
Carmelo Anthony stepped up to the microphone beforehand and thanked the fans who showed up. Dwyane Wade donated his salary for the game to hurricane relief efforts.
In the end, all that was left was to play a basketball game. New York certainly did in that 104-84 national TV shellacking dealt out to the defending champions. But one game in the first week of the season hardly means anything. Perhaps even another game in early December will mean little too.
But for a Knicks franchise trying to reclaim legitimacy and a spot atop the Eastern Conference's standings, that win had a lot of meaning. And New York has continued to play well since then, firming up their spot atop the Atlantic Division and amont the East's true contenders.
So what would a second win over Miami mean? This time on the road? Probably as much if not more to this team's confidence. The Knicks have every reason to think they can do it too after a confidence-boosting late game gut check win over the Bobcats on Wednesday and the knowledge that "even the Wizards" can defeat the Heat on any given night.
There is still plenty of work for New York to do. A 20-point win does not seem in the cards on the road this time, particularly considering Miami remembers the blow out from earlier in the season and the loss to Washington in the team's last outing. That could make this a game that has much more meaning in building that confidence.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Many general managers appear to be licking the lips a little bit when it comes to the Miami Heat. One told Sports Illustrated that the new luxury tax could hit the defending champions pretty hard and force them to break up their team. Unless of course Micky Arison decides to spend all that money anyway.
-Carmelo Anthony got a bit knicked up last night in Charlotte but is hoping to play in tonight's showdown with Miami. The Knicks would need Anthony to say the least. He has really developed into a strong leader and a, surprise, decent defender when he puts in the effort. The kind of player that gives opposing coaches nightmares.
Tonight's Other Games
Dallas Mavericks (8-10) vs. Phoenix Suns (7-12)
Eventually Dirk Nowitzki is going to play this year. He told ESPN he got some shots up and is slowly working his way back into basketball activities after arthroscopic surgery late in the offseason. However the timetable for his return is not good for the struggling Mavericks. Nowitzki may not return to the court until January.