Maybe Kenyon Martin was just being difficult, a little bit confrontational, but he wasn't about to assume what the rest of the NBA may assume.

When he was asked late Sunday night a question that began with, "The assumption is that the Eastern Conference title goes through Miami," he gave that dead-eyed stare at the reporter and said quietly, "You know what assuming [does], right?"

Any fan of "The Odd Couple'' would recognize his point, which to put it politely warns against the danger of how you'll be judged if you assume things. But his bigger point was the one Knicks fans might like to cling to — that he and the Knicks aren't conceding anything to the Heat. Not the Eastern Conference. Not the playoffs. Not tonight.

The Knicks will take on the Heat in Miami in another nationally televised showcase, a measuring stick for the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks, holders of the longest current winning streak in the NBA with eight consecutive victories. Or it could be, as the Knicks chose to treat it, just another night.

"The importance of every game is you go out to win,'' Martin said "It's not just against Miami or Boston or the team that's at the top of the conference. You go out to win every game. You guys make it a bigger deal than it is.

"We go out to win every game. Just because it's them and the streak they had it's a bigger media deal than it is in this locker room. It's just another game we've got to play. We're going to go down there to get a win. We're not going down there to play. We want to get a win."

The Knicks are seeking to take the season series from the Heat, having beaten them twice by 20 points each time before dropping the last meeting. Measuring sticks in the regular season are hard to take seriously, particularly when this game, like many down the stretch, might be played at less than full strength. The Knicks have been battered much of the season and are hopeful they'll have Tyson Chandler back for this game after he missed the past 10.