Daily Confidential

Miami coach Pat Riley believes the Heat are a bad defensive team. They'll get a chance to prove him wrong when they host the New York Knicks on Friday night.

The Heat (3-4) are coming off a 112-105 home loss to Denver on Tuesday, their second straight at AmericanAirlines Arena and third in five games there this season.

Miami has been outscored by an average of 12.4 points at home, and its four losses have been by an average of 20.0 points. The Heat are allowing opponents to score 99.9 points a contest.

``We can't stop anybody right now,'' Riley said. ``Right now we have to almost be perfect to win.''

Part of the problem for the Heat has been Shaquille O'Neal's absence from the paint. O'Neal missed his third game of the season Tuesday, and Miami has allowed 102.0 points in losing two of those contests.

``We can't get them back,'' forward Udonis Haslem said. ``They're gone now. We have no excuse. We're not playing well and we know it.''

O'Neal's status for Friday is uncertain. He missed Tuesday's game because of a hyperextended knee after sitting out two earlier games with a bruised knee.

Miami has also played without starting point guard Jason Williams, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, but he may make his season debut Friday.

Williams averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 assists in 59 games last season. He posted 21.0 points and 6.7 assists as Miami swept the three-game series from New York in 2005-06.

The Heat have won seven straight over the Knicks (3-6) since a 76-64 loss in Miami on Feb. 7, 2004.

New York ended a three-game losing streak with a 102-82 win over Washington at home on Wednesday. Rookie Renaldo Balkman scored a season-high 18 points, and for the first time this season, the Knicks were able to hold an opponent under 100 points.

``Our defensive effort was great,'' coach Isiah Thomas said. ``The intensity and the energy that we played with were great. ... That's the kind of basketball that we have to play.''

Six players finished in double figures, including three reserves.

``Guys got to dig deep,'' said guard Nate Robinson, who had 11 points off the bench. ``If you want to win, you got to do whatever it takes to win by any means necessary.''

Robinson, who averaged 9.3 points as a rookie last season, is averaging 13.4 points and shooting 52.9 percent from the floor.

Two of the Knicks' three wins this season have come on the road, where they went 8-33 in 2005-06.

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