Amare: 'Nobody's afraid of the Heat'

Updated: January 27, 2011, 1:19 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Miami Heat come to town Thursday night with two of the top-five scorers in the NBA and the second-stingiest defense in the league. But Amare Stoudemire doesn't seem too worried.

"Nobody's afraid of the Miami Heat," Stoudemire said Wednesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeAmare Stoudemire
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesAmare Stoudemire is the NBA's second-leading scorer, averaging 26.1 points per game.

This despite the fact the New York Knicks have lost two games to the Heat (31-13) this season, including a 22-point laugher at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17 in which LeBron James had a triple double (32 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds).

But they'll be facing a Miami team on Thursday that's without power forward Chris Bosh, who is sidelined with a high ankle sprain. (Bosh burned the Knicks for 26 points in their first Garden meeting.)

"Now, the focus really becomes [Dwyane] Wade and James even more," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.

The Knicks snapped a six-game losing streak -- their second of the season -- by beating the lowly Wizards on Monday night at the Garden. One major reason they were able to break out of their malaise was the play of Wilson Chandler, who scored 25 points to break out of his own personal slump.

"We definitely need his scoring," point guard Raymond Felton said.

In the Knicks' recent six-game skid, Chandler broke the 14-point mark just once, shooting just 36 percent (29-of-80) during the stretch.

"Whether it's a coincidence or not, I don't know. But when we were 3-8 [to start the season] he didn't shoot the ball well. Now we were 0-6 and he didn't shoot the ball well. And when he's shot the ball well, we've won," D'Antoni said.

"So, now you can't put it all on him. We also had Amare's shooting percentage down, Ray's down, different guys have been down. But he's a big piece for us, and when he plays well, it usually leads to good things."

Chandler missed practice with a sore calf on Wednesday, but D'Antoni said he sat out for precautionary reasons and will be ready to go Thursday night. The Knicks are 10-6 when Chandler shoots 50 percent or higher this season.

It also helps that Felton found his touch Monday night. He shot just 29-of-94 (31 percent) during the Knicks' six-game skid but scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the 115-106 win over Washington.

"Everybody goes through slumps, but I think we're OK," Felton said.

For what it's worth, Stoudemire is confident the Knicks can beat the Heat, who are holding teams to just 43 percent shooting. The Knicks were embarrassed during their first meeting at MSG, getting outscored 56-34 in the second half. They were more competitive in the second meeting in Miami, losing by eight after rallying in the second half.

Stoudemire has seen signs of improvement and looks at Thursday night's matchup as a chance to prove something to James, Wade and the rest of the league.

"We had a chance to win both games. So we feel like we're still improving," Stoudemire said. "We still have something to prove. We're trying to get better as a team and it starts tomorrow night."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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