Heat preparing as if Melo will play

MIAMI -- ESPNNewYork.com posed a question to Erik Spoelstra, starting with, "If Carmelo Anthony plays tonight ..."

Before answering, the Heat offered a correction.

"I'll preface that by eliminating the 'if,'" he said after Thursday morning's shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Knicks are officially listing Anthony as questionable after he suffered a left middle-finger laceration that required five stitches on Wednesday night, but the Heat are preparing to face him. Dwyane Wade hinted that Melo's injury wasn't serious enough for him to sit out.

"I didn't even know he was injured until this morning. I heard he cut his finger," Wade said sarcastically, with a smile.

LeBron James said he saw Anthony injury himself against the Bobcats, and understands if his close friend and Olympic teammate needs to miss Thursday night's game.

"I did see him cut his finger yesterday and it didn't look too good," James said. "I haven't given him a hard time. You've got to do what's best. It's a long season; I understand that. It would be nice to see this matchup, but he has to take care of himself and worry about the long haul, not the short haul."

James said the Knicks are "more experienced" and "more dangerous" than in years past, and Spoelstra called their longtime Eastern Conference rival "the No. 1 team in the conference right now." In addition, Wade admitted that his guys "got their butt kicked" back on Nov. 2 at MSG.

"They're not 13-4 for no reason," Wade said. "This is great for the game of basketball that the New York Knicks are back to being a good team."

After Spoelstra made it clear that he believes Anthony will play tonight, he provided this detailed scouting report on the NBA's third-leading scorer:

"He's really grown as a player over the years. Winning is his highest priority right now and he's doing it on both ends of the court. You really see him committed to their defensive plan.

"He understands the type of talent, the strengths of the team, so he's using the personnel masterfully this year, in terms of getting guys involved, getting the 3-point shooters going, attacking when he has space, doing it off the dribble, doing it in the post, doing it off pick-and-rolls when he's a receiver. He's really grown."

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