NEW YORK - While the records may not indicate it, Thursday night's battle between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden should be a marquee matchup.
The Heat are back near their usual perch atop the basketball world, but the Knicks' struggles this season have been well documented.
You can watch all the action as part of an NBA on TSN doubleheader beginning at 8pm et/5pm pt.
The latest problem for the Knicks involves J.R. Smith and it might have been one of his worst transgressions. The NBA fined Smith $50,000 on Wednesday for "instances of unsportsmanlike conduct," stemming from two incidents where Smith tried untying an opponent's shoelaces. After the first, Smith was warned by the league, but he did it again, and is $50,000 poorer.
His coach is no longer amused.
"I'm not happy about this because he was warned, he comes back, and he makes the same mistake, and it's not right," head coach Mike Woodson told ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
On the court, Smith hasn't been anywhere near as good as last season when he won the Sixth Man of the Year award. He is averaging 11.3 ppg and shooting 34.8 percent from the field.
Despite Smith's antics, the Knicks have been playing well of late. They've won two in a row and three of four, but are just 1-4 in their last five at MSG. For the season, the Knicks are a disappointing 5-12 at home.
On Tuesday, New York took care of its business at home with an 89-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Carmelo Anthony poured in a game-high 34 points and Andrea Bargnani registered a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Raymond Felton scored 12 points for New York. Tyson Chandler missed the game with an upper respiratory infection and is listed as questionable.
The Knicks are 14 1/2 games behind the Heat in the Eastern Conference. Last season, these teams finished Nos. 1 and 2, and the Knicks beat the Heat three times in the regular season, including both trips to Miami.
The Heat have been very strong of late, winning three straight, five of six and 11 of 13. They've won three consecutive road games and that will help as they embark on a six-game odyssey with visits to New York, Brooklyn, Washington, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Atlanta.
"It felt like we just got home," said LeBron James, referring to the team's recent four-game trip out west. "We have to refocus on what the road is all about.
"The Knicks are playing much better than they were. It's the Mecca of basketball. It's always great to be there."
On Tuesday, the Heat overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half, thanks to James, and bested the New Orleans Pelicans, 107-88, in South Beach.
James scored 19 in the third quarter alone and finished with 32 points.
"I was able to get into a good rhythm and just try to keep it going and regain some momentum," James said of his third-quarter performance.
Dwyane Wade added 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for Miami, which outscored the Pelicans 64-39 in the final 24 minutes after trailing by six at halftime. Chris Andersen added 15 points off the bench on 7-of-7 shooting.
The Heat were without starters Mario Chalmers (Achilles) and Shane Battier (quad). Both players are considered day-to-day.
While the Knicks won three of four last season, the Heat are 11-5 in the last 16 meetings between the teams. Miami has won five of its last seven in Madison Square Garden.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT DENVER NUGGETS
DENVER - After an eight-game losing streak, the Denver Nuggets have won three straight, but will face a stiff challenge Thursday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder head to the Pepsi Center.
Catch the action as the second part of an NBA on TSN doubleheader at 10:30pm et/7:30pm pt.
The Nuggets haven't looked back after the disastrous run over the holidays. They snapped the slide at home against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, throttled the Los Angeles Lakers in Hollywood on Sunday, then squashed the Boston Celtics by 31 at home on Tuesday.
Randy Foye had 23 points, Ty Lawson scored 19 with 13 assists and the Nuggets led wire-to-wire in a 129-98 rout of the Celtics. Kenneth Faried added 21 points and 13 rebounds and J.J. Hickson scored 17 for the Nuggets.
Denver coach Brian Shaw received two technical fouls and was ejected with 2:43 left in the third for arguing with officials during a timeout while his team was up by 28.
"We punish criers. We don't cry," he said. "Fortunately for us, it wasn't a situation where it cost us."
Denver's starting backcourt has been on a tear of late. Foye is 11-for-20 from 3-point range during the winning streak and Lawson has recorded four consecutive double-doubles.
Wilson Chandler (strained left groin) and Nate Robinson (sprained right ankle) sat out practice on Wednesday and are listed as game-time decisions.
The Thunder had a two-game winning streak and eight-game road winning streak snapped on Tuesday with a 112-101 setback in Salt Lake City to the Utah Jazz. OKC has now dropped three of its last five.
Kevin Durant tied an NBA season-high with 48 points to add to his seven boards, five assists and four steals, and Reggie Jackson added another 20 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals for the Thunder in their fifth road loss of the season.
They were the only two Thunder players in double figures.
"We fought but we can't play for just one quarter," Durant said. "We didn't have toughness tonight. Too many mental mistakes from everybody and they capitalized on it. You give a team confidence, they're going to have it the whole game."
The Thunder's eight straight road victories entering the game was the longest for the franchise since Jan. 24-Feb. 27, 2002.
Serge Ibaka didn't play against the Jazz due to flu-like symptoms and he's listed as day-to-day.
The Thunder won the first two of this season's matchups -- one in Denver and one in Oklahoma City. Those wins snapped a three-game series losing streak for the Thunder, who have lost nine of their last 12 in the Mile High City.