New York (27-36) at Miami (51-16)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Miami, FL
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Sat Mar 19, 2005
  • TV: MSG, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Thanks in large part to Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade has emerged as one of the top players in the NBA. But you won’t hear that from him.

“You’re always very confident in your ability and your skills,” Wade said. “I won’t be the one ever to say I’m the best. That’ll have to be somebody else saying that. But one day, you want to get to that point.”

The NBA’s most dynamic new tandem will try to help the Miami Heat extend their winning streak to 12 games when they host the New York Knicks.

Once they landed O’Neal in the offseason, the Heat figured to be a much better team. But O’Neal’s presence in the post has opened things up for Wade, who in just his second season is already gaining a reputation as one of the best all-around guards in the league.

The Heat, who won a franchise-record 14 straight games earlier this season, extended their current run to 11 with a 102-89 victory over O’Neal’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, on Thursday.

Wade scored 27 points to lead Miami, and even got into a verbal exchange with Kobe Bryant, the player many feel drove O’Neal out of Los Angeles.

“I don’t want to say what I said,” Wade said. “I told him that I wasn’t talking to him, for one. And for two, I pretty much told him a lot of stuff. I don’t want to get into it.”

Overall, Wade’s scoring is up 7.5 points from last season, as he ranks eighth in the league, averaging 23.8 per game. He’s also averaging seven assists, compared to 4.5 last season.

This past week, Wade had 29 points on 10-for-12 shooting in a 39-point rout of Milwaukee on Monday and then hit the winning jumper at the buzzer to beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday before winning his duel with Bryant.

The Knicks recovered from Wade’s dagger by beating Atlanta 106-92 on Friday behind 24 points from Stephon Marbury and 23 from Tim Thomas.

Ending a two-game losing streak and winning on the road for just the eighth time this season, the Knicks held Atlanta without a field goal for nearly nine minutes after Tom Gugliotta’s 15-footer produced an 84-84 tie with 9:40 remaining.

“We just needed this. Especially going into Miami,” Thomas said.

New York, 11th in the Eastern Conference, is four games behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot.

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