By JEFF BARTL
Posted Dec 06 2012 12:51AM
Carmelo Anthony has been on a tear of late, but he wasn't on the court for the end of the New York Knicks' thrilling victory their last time out.
He may not be around for Thursday night's highly anticipated rematch with the Miami Heat, either.
A finger injury could keep Anthony from helping New York try to avoid its sixth straight defeat in Miami, while the Heat figure to be motivated after a stunning loss in the nation's capital.
Anthony entered Wednesday's game in Charlotte averaging 30.7 points over his previous six. He had 23 when he dove into the team's bench after a loose ball and suffered a deep cut to his left middle finger with 2:10 remaining.
That left the Knicks needing another option down the stretch. Enter J.R. Smith, who intercepted a pass with less than 20 seconds left, then hit a jumper as the buzzer sounded - the final two of his 13 points - to give the Knicks a 100-98 victory.
Tyson Chandler added 18 points and 17 rebounds.
"The huddle was very calm. They were like, 'Hey, we can win this,'" coach Mike Woodson said. "We missed a lot of good shots tonight, shots that we normally make, but J.R. hung in there and made the shot when it counted."
New York (13-4) has won five straight and has the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"I was hurt, but J.R. made it feel better," Anthony said.
How good it will feel Thursday remains to be seen. Anthony received five stitches for the laceration, though the injury is on his non-shooting hand.
"Right now it's numb, so I don't know," Anthony, averaging 28.4 points in his last 13 regular-season matchups with Miami, said of his chances to play against the Heat.
Anthony scored 30 points in New York's 104-84 home win over Miami on Nov. 2, but the Knicks have lost nine of the last 10 road meetings with the Heat - including the postseason.
Miami, though, is coming off a 105-100 loss at Washington - which had only one victory entering the contest - that snapped a season-best six-game winning streak.
"We understand that every team we play is going to play their best. They're going to make shots they don't make against other teams," LeBron James said after recording his 33rd career regular-season triple-double (26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists). "We understand teams are going to play better when they play against us. They're up for it and we have to be for teams as well."
James insisted the defeat is no more or less important than any other.
"Nah, man, there's no lesson. This ain't a lesson for us. We just lost," James said. "We've seen and been through everything, so we don't need a loss to be like, `Oh, let's catch ourselves.' It happens."
Chris Bosh scored 20 points and added 12 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade finished with 24 points.
"You move on," Wade said. "You learn from it, but you don't become a good team by holding onto certain losses - or certain wins."
James has averaged 30.6 points in his last 18 regular-season games against the Knicks, while Wade has averaged 30.3 in his last 13 in the series.
New York may heavily rely on Smith if Anthony can't go, but shooting against the Heat has been a struggle for Smith. He's hit just 33.6 percent from the field versus Miami in eight meetings since the start of last season.