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W2W4: Knicks at Nuggets

The big story heading into Wednesday night's game on ESPN: Carmelo Anthony is playing in Denver for the first time since the Nuggets traded him to the Knicks in February 2011.

While the Melodrama is fun to talk about, the bottom line is the Knicks (38-23) just need a win. Badly.

They lost to Golden State by 29 on Monday in their first game of a season-long five-game road trip.

If they lose to the formidable Nuggets (43-22), the Knicks could be looking at an ugly trip, something they can't afford as they look to keep pace with Indiana for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Tipoff will be at 10:30 p.m. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:

MELO'S KNEE: After sitting out for six days due to tightness in his knee, Anthony returned to the court on Monday -- and the results weren't pretty.

Anthony shot 4-for-15 and said afterward that his knee was still bothering him. He will likely play tonight and then re-evaluate the knee.

He had an MRI in mid- to late February that revealed no structural damage. But there is a fluid buildup in the back of his knee, causing tightness.

The Knicks may decide to drain the fluid rather than wait for the knee to respond to rest.

TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY: Denver has been excellent at home this season, carrying a 28-3 record at the Pepsi Center into Wednesday's game.

They have won 13 straight at home and are in the midst of a season-high nine-game winning streak overall.

Behind Ty Lawson, Denver likes to push the pace and score in transition. The Knicks are the opposite; they rank 25th in pace and have one of the lowest per-game averages for fast-break points.

Who wins this clash of styles?

BIG REUNION: Melo isn't the only Knick making a return to Denver. J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton and James White have all spent time with the Nuggets.

With Amar'e Stoudemire out, the Knicks will need a big effort from Smith on Wednesday. He is their clear-cut secondary scoring option.

On Monday, Smith had just nine points on 3-for-11 shooting in 21 minutes. He was ejected for a flagrant foul on Harrison Barnes.

In the Knicks' win over the Nuggets at Madison Square Garden in early December, though, Smith had 15 points and nine rebounds to spark New York's bench. They could use a similar performance tonight.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.