The two best teams in the Eastern Conference, and maybe the whole NBA, square off Thursday night when the New York Knicks head to Miami for a matchup with the defending champion Heat.
The Heat will have revenge on their mind several ways.
On Tuesday night, the Heat fell to the lowly Washington Wizards, 105-101. That was just the second win of the season for a Wizards team that featured five players in double-figures.
"This ain't a lesson for us. We just lost," said LeBron James, whose first game as the reigning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year was spoiled. "We've seen, and been through everything. It happens. It's nothing new to us. We understand every team we play is going to play their best. They're going to make shots that they don't make against other teams."
James led the way for the Heat with his 41st career triple-double. He logged 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Dwyane Wade added 24 and Chris Bosh chipped in 20 points and 12 boards.
With starting forward Shane Battier still out with a sprained right knee, the Heat got all of a sudden very thin at point guard. Mario Chalmers tore a tendon in his finger against the Wizards and could be out close to a week. Backup guard Norris Cole sat in Washington with a sore groin.
The Heat's six-game winning streak was lost and now they've got only two days to ponder the puzzling setback since the Knicks come to town.
Miami will be looking to avenge a 104-84 loss on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden. That still ranks as the Heat's most lopsided loss of the season.
"It'll be a good game for us, coming off a loss, being back at home," said Wade. "It's a game we all look forward to."
You can bet the Knicks are looking forward to it as well.
"We feel like we're right there with anybody we play against," said Carmelo Anthony. "
Anthony's availability for Thursday is in serious question. He dove into the stands for a loose ball Wednesday night in a win in Charlotte against the Bobcats and lacerated his middle finger. Anthony didn't finish the game and isn't sure if he can go against the Heat.
"It ain't off," joked Anthony. "I'm going to see how I feel. I wanna play. I have to do what's right for the finger. If I can't play, I'll see them two more times."
With Anthony getting stitched, J.R. Smith emerged as the hero on Wednesday. He got a steal with less than four seconds to go in the game, then buried the game-winning jumper as time expired to give the Knicks a 100-98 victory.
Anthony netted 23 points before he left and Smith added 13. Tyson Chandler posted a huge double-double with 18 points and 17 rebounds to give the Knicks their fourth straight win.
The Heat, who are 8-0 at home this season, have won 10 of the last 13 against the Knicks. New York, which is also undefeated at home and 5-4 on the road, is 3-7 in its last 10 in Miami.