With Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks on the rise, Thursday night's matchup between the Knicks and the rival Miami Heat looks to be one of the most-watched and most memorable games this season.
It's going to be a high-energy game, said Heat guard Dwayne Wade. The crowd is going to be into it. Fans around the world are going to watch the game, obviously, for many different reasons, so it'll be great.
James (front) drives to the basket against Knicks guard Iman Shumpert in the second half of the first Knicks-Heat matchup in Miami on Jan. 27, 2012. (Reuters/Robert Sullivan)
The Knicks are now 17-17, 9-2 over their last 11 games thanks to Lin playing significant minutes beginning with his 25-point performance against the New Jersey Nets off the bench earlier this month. Since that game against the Nets, the sensation is averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists after just playing a total of 55 minutes in New York's previous 23 games.
Meanwhile, Miami is 26-7, has won seven straight games by at least 12 points and is atop the Eastern Conference by percentage points over the Chicago Bulls. Heat forward LeBron James is playing MVP-caliber basketball, averaging 27.6 points, 6.8 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game, while his teammate Wade is averaging 22.4 points, 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
We're playing a great team, and it's going to be a good evaluation of where we're at, said Lin, who had 17 points and nine assists on Wednesday in a 99-82 blowout win against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. So from that end obviously we're excited and ready for the challenge. But besides that, we're just going try to stay consistent.
James has made it known to the media that he will be tasked with guarding Lin at points throughout the game, a testament to the latter's ability to penetrate to the basket and create shot opportunities for open teammates. But Lin, who established himself as the orchestrator of New York's offense, may also have to contend with Wade and a handful of other capable defenders who have helped the Heat hold opponents to a 42 percent field goal percentage thus far.
You know they're going to try to jump all over you and double-team you almost at every place and be quick as heck, said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. I'm curious to see how Jeremy will adjust to it.
The last time the Knicks and Heat met, James and Wade combined for 59 points in a 99-89 win in Miami on Jan. 27. Lin didn't play at all that game.
Now, he will get the chance to contribute mightily for a Knicks team that, with a win, can possibly contend with the best in the East for a title.
It's going to be a lot of, a lot of anticipation about this game, said Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. We're going down there to win. Miami is playing great basketball right now. One of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team in the NBA.
Follow the action starting at 6:45 p.m. ET with the live blog below: