Knicks Injury Report:
Marcus Camby: doubtful (plantar fasciitis)
Tyson Chandler: expected to be out (bulging disc in back)
Kenyon Martin: expected to be out (sprained ankle)
Amare Stoudemire: out (knee surgery)
Kurt Thomas: out (stress fracture in foot)
Rasheed Wallace: out (foot surgery)
Back-to-back losses to subpar teams aren’t exactly how you want to enter a game against a team that has won 13-straight contests, but that’s the way it goes for the Bulls tonight. With five games left in the season, the Bulls are tied with Atlanta for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago has one fewer loss than the Hawks as it stands now, and they also hold the tiebreaker, but dropping to the sixth seed wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing for the Bulls. They’d have a chance to win in a series against the Pacers or Nets.
Before the playoffs start the Bulls have a chance to break another streak, something they’ve been doing all year. Streaks that the Bulls snapped this season, good and bad, include: Bobcats 18-game losing streak, Suns 12-game road losing streak, Detroit’s 18-game losing streak against Chicago and most importantly Miami’s 27-game win streak.
That means the 13 in a row that New York has won should be easy work for the Bulls.
If Chicago wants to win this one they’ll have to stop Carmelo Anthony, who is currently on a tear as he tries to hold on to the scoring title. Melo has scored 35 points in five straight games and is averaging 40.6 points, on 61.1 percent from the field and 58.6 from three. He is also grabbing 8.2 boards per contest this month, his highest total this season.
Compared to those numbers the Bulls have shut him down a little this season, but Melo has still been getting his buckets. Anthony is averaging 34.0 points in the two games he played against Chicago this year, shooting 42.1 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from deep. He has averaged 8.5 trips to the free throw line.
A reason that the Bulls could withstand Melo dropping 34 points per game is because Luol Deng played him great. In December, Deng scored 29 points and grabbed 13 boards, matching Melo’s 29 in the game, while shooting a little bit better from the field. In January, Melo scored 39 against the Bulls, but shot just 14-32. Deng went 13-18 from the field and finished with 33 points.
Deng is one of the Bulls’ best defenders and they could clearly use him against Anthony. Unfortunately, Lu has missed the previous two games and will be a game-time decision tonight.
The Bulls may have to rely on the young Jimmy Butler to slow Melo down. Butler is a good defender and is coming off a career-high 28 points, but he is a drop off from Deng on both ends. (that’s not a knock on Butler, who was by far the Bulls’ best player last time out against Toronto).
Surprisingly, the Bulls may not be the most injured team in this contest. The Knicks are missing all of their bigs from Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire, all the way to late season pickup Kenyon Martin. Add in Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby and that’s five big men that the Knicks are missing. Chris Copeland, who is officially listed as a small forward, is expected to start at center. That leaves Melo, most likely at the power forward spot.
With this tiny lineup for the Knicks, Nazr Mohammed should have his way on the inside. Just kidding, he will miss about 15 tip-ins again, but Carlos Boozer should have the advantage all night. The only question is whether Boozington will use his size and go to the basket, or do his usual fade-aways (Melo guards power forwards quite well, but Boozer still has a strength advantage and will hopefully use it to get to the hole).
What the game really boils down to though is three-point shooting. New York has shot 37.9 percent from deep against the Bulls this year, slightly better than the 37.8 they have shot on the season. The Knicks tied a franchise record with 20 three pointers in their last game against the Wizards. The Bulls are seventh best in the league at defending the three, allowing teams to shoot 34.7 percent.
Just as important is how the Bulls shoot the three. A big reason Chicago won the three previous games against the Knicks was because it shot 47.6 percent from beyond the arc, more than 12-percent better than they have on the season.
Knicks Injury Report:
Marcus Camby: left Thursday’s game (foot)
Raymond Felton: out (broken right pinky)
Iman Shumpert: out (knee)
Rasheed Wallace: out (stress reaction in foot)
Chicago goes for its third win in as many tries against the Knicks this season, as New York tries to avoid dropping both games of a back-to-back.
The Knicks lost to Indiana last night, without their star player. Carmelo Anthony was serving a one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics’ team bus for Kevin Garnett. New York, who averages 101.5 points per game, really struggled to score without their starting forward. They shot just 34.8 percent from the field and finished with only 76 points, by far their lowest total of the season (their next lowest scoring effort was 85, against the Bulls on December 8).
The Knicks starters scored just 35 points. Indiana’s bench, who employs the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green (in a non-Dunk Contest environment), scored 32 points. J.R. Smith scored 25 points off the bench for New York, but it took him 29 shots to do so. Tyson Chandler was the only Knick to shoot at least 50 percent. Chandler had a solid game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 15 boards, but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the only Knick starter to have fewer shots taken than points scored. Ronnie Brewer nearly had an 8-trillion, but he ruined it by having a single assist (miss you, Ronnie).
But the Pacers do this to pretty much everyone they play. Indy is second in opponent points per game (89.1) and first in defensive rating (98.5). The Pacers haven’t allowed more than 94 points since December.
The Bulls will be getting a somewhat tired Knicks team that is already pretty old. Jason Kidd played 31 minutes, Tyson Chandler played 38, J.R. Smith played 40 minutes, and Marcus Camby re-aggravated a foot injury in his 20 minutes. Keep in mind Amare Stoudemire is also returning from injury and was told by team doctors to limit his minutes. Anthony will obviously be well-rested, as he hasn’t played since Monday’s loss to the Celtics.
The Bulls held New York to 32.1 percent shooting in their first match-up, and 41.8 in their second go-around. The first game the Knicks didn’t have Carmelo, and they were missing Stoudemire in both. The Knicks will be without Raymond Felton for the first time in the series. Felton averaged 24.0 points per game, but shot 35.3 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc in the two games versus Chicago.
The Knicks are not playing their best basketball of the year right now. They started off smoking hot from the field, but they’ve dropped every month of the season thus far. In November New York shot 41.6 percent from three, in December it fell to 37.1. So far in January, they are shooting 34.9 percent from deep. They have also dropped in overall shooting, steals and points per game.
Those numbers translate to the Knicks being just 4-6 in their last ten games, coming back to earth from their great start and amazing shooting. New York is 4-3 on the second night of back-to-backs, averaging 104 points per game, but giving up 108.3.
The Bulls are having their best shooting month, at 46.4 percent, more than 2 percent better than the next highest month. They are also shooting 48 percent from three, nearly 17 percent better than they did in November. It’s only four games in, and knowing the Bulls’ offense things could change quickly, but these numbers are solid signs of improvement from a team whose offense needs to vastly improve.
The Knicks score a lot of points, and even though the Bulls are 5th in defensive rating, New York is going to get their points. Brandon Jennings torched the Bulls for 35 points and Milwaukee scored 104, when they average 96.5. The Bulls are going to have to bring a better defensive effort, especially Luol Deng on Anthony, if they want to start their own back-to-back with a win. At least this time it will be Deng on the opposing team’s best scorer, rather than Nate Robinson.
Bad blood: Last time the two teams met, there were four ejections. It started with Carmelo Anthony being ejected in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Honey Nut Cheerios, or any cereal, played a part in this ejection, although you can never be too sure. Knicks coach Mike Woodson followed and then Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler were later tossed. I nominate Nazr Mohammed to get thrown out this time.
Knicks Injury Report:
Rasheed Wallace: out (foot)
Amare Stoudemire: doubtful (knee)
Iman Shumpert: out (knee)
Steve Novak: questionable (illness)
Marcus Camby: out indefinitely (plantar fasciitis)
It’s been 12 days since the Bulls topped the Knicks 93-85 when they were without Carmelo Anthony. Since that game Chicago has been up and down, going 3-2. New York, on the other hand, has been hot, going 5-1 since that loss to the Bulls.
New York, who is second in offensive efficiency in the league, was held to a seaon-low 85 points against the Bulls on December 8, as well as a season low in field goal percentage. The Knicks average 102.8 points per contest. But shutting other teams down is what the Bulls do. They’ve allowed opponents to score 90 points just twice in the month of December, and they came out on top in one of those games (an overtime win against the Pistons). Chicago has allowed 100 points just once since November 18.
The Bulls will have their hands full with Melo back this time though. Anthony is averaging 28.0 points per game and 32.8 in the six games he has played in December. He’s shooting 48.9 percent from deep and 49.3 percent from the field. He is a career 33.1 percent three point shooter and 45.7 overall.
Anthony scored 31 points in the Knicks’ last time out against their new crosstown-rival Nets, after missing the previous two games with a sprained ankle. “He looked good to me,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “If he’s not 100 percent, I’ll take whatever percent he was, because that was awesome.”
It isn’t just Melo shooting at a career best rate. The Knicks are fourth in the league in effective field goal percentage. Jason Kidd seems to have found the fountain of youth. He’s shooting 44.6 percent from three, but most important he is not turning the ball over. Kidd is averaging just 1.2 turnovers per 36 minutes. His next best season he was turning it over 2.3 times per 36.
The Knicks as a team are doing a great job holding onto the ball. New York is first in the league in turnover percentage (10.4). They are also forcing their opponents into mistakes, ranking fifth in opponent turnover percentage (.153).
Joakim Noah, who has been the brightest spot for the Bulls all season, is coming off of his second career triple-double. Jo recorded eleven points, 13 rebounds and ten assists in Chicago’s win over Boston. Carlos Boozer (21 points), Luol Deng (21) and Nate Robinson (18) all scored well as the Bulls shot 50 percent as a team. Taj Gibson, who has struggled most of the season, even put in a solid game tallying 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
For all the good, Kirk Hinrich brought the bad. He went scoreless in his 24 minutes of action, tallying two rebounds and two assists. At least he didn’t have any turnovers in the game. Marquis Teague played seven minutes and almost matched Kirk’s numbers (Teague recorded two assists and one rebound).
Once again Thibs was stubborn with his rotation even though Hinrich wasn’t playing well at all. It wasn’t even as if he was shutting down Rondo. The Celtics’ guard scored 26 points and dished eight assists. Those 26 points are a season-high for Rondo.
New York, who is currently the top team in the East, has lost just one home game this season. They average 104.8 points per game at home, compared to 100.9 on the road. Chicago is 6-4 on the road this season.
Remember that three-pointer Jason Kidd hit to send the Bulls-Mavs game to overtime? Watch Vinny Del Negro lunge at Kidd from the Chicago bench and (presumably) scream to distract him. (Via Ball Don’t Lie.)
The best (or worst) part? He’s done it before. And it didn’t work either time: The opponent drilled a triple on both occasions. You might want to just let ‘em shoot it, Vinny
You know, a lot of people predicted that the Bulls would come back from their Western Conference road trip with an 11-game losing streak, particularly after they kicked the journey off with an overtime loss (of the ”fourth-quarter collapse” variety) to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Instead, the team will return to the United Center on Tuesday for Johnny “Red” Kerr Night after a 4-3 trip that was like a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth. Or, to use a more appropriate analogy, it was like a go-ahead three-pointer at the buzzer that secures a critical win.
Speaking of which: Wow. Dirk, who hit only one of his first 10 shots, went 15-for-24 the rest of the way and ended up with 44 points. That total included the 14 he scored in overtime, during which he went 5-for-7. So yeah…I guess you could say he got it going. Joakim Noah, whose eyebrows may never grow back after Nowitzki’s scorching, said: “There were times when Dirk was shooting that I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to shoot.’ I felt like I was right on him. And he was just making shots that I don’t think anybody in the NBA can make. He has such a different game than everybody else. It’s hard to explain unless you’re out there guarding him.”
(In the interest of maintaining the feel-good vibe the Bulls established on their road trip, I’m not going to bring up the fact that Joakim is the guy who was used like an inflatable defender – first by Jefferson, then by Yao Ming and finally by Nowiztki — in the Bulls’ three losses. Whoops. I brought it up.)
But in all fairness, Dirk wasn’t the only Dallas player who burned the Bulls. Jose Juan Barea came off the Mavericks’ bench to score 20 points, and Jason Kidd — who hadn’t hit a shot all game, by the way – drilled a three-pointer with 13 seconds left in regularion to tie the score at 97-all and (after Derrick Rose missed a running jumper) send the game to overtime. So the Bulls were one improbable (and rather unexpected) shot and a superstar scoring explosion from going 5-2 on the seven-game road trip that was supposed to end their season prematurely? All things considered, that’s not so bad.
(One other thing worth noting. The Mavs lost Jason Terry when, early in the second quarter, he broke the the fourth metacarpal in his left hand during a collision with Barea. One could suggest that Chicago failed to take advantage of his absence, but it sure seemed to me that Terry’s injury gave Dallas one of those short-term bursts of inspiration. I mean, it wasn’t until after the injury that Dirk started Hulking-out. Coincidence? I think not.)
Some other notables from the game: Ben Gordan had a team-high 28 points (not to mention a game-high-tying 5 turnovers). Tyrus Thomas continued his exceptionally strong play — five double-doubles in the last six games! — by scoring 23 points (including a triple that pulled the Bulls to within two points with three seconds left in overtime) and grabbing 12 rebounds. Derrick Rose finished with 22 points and 9 assists, but he shot poorly (11-for-25) and had four of his shots stuffed. Speaking of misdirected shooting, Luol Deng had his second straight stinker since I deemed him “back” after the Rockets game (10 points on 3-for-15 from the field). Kirk Hinrich and Andres Nocioni chipped in their usual 20+ points of the bench — Kirk scored 10 and Noc had 13 — but Hinrich added another 5 turnovers to Chicago’s gaudy total (18). And all those TOs led to 25 points going the other way. That hurt.
Beyond the numbers, the Bulls showed — yet again — that they can be exploited by a superstar (or, in the case of Jefferson, an “almost All-Star”)…and that’s something that they’re going to have to address sooner or later. (Not by trading for Amare Stoudemire, though.) But right now, I’m all for sitting back and celebrating for a couple days. The trip improved their record only slightly, but at 22-29 they’re currently tenth in the East and only two games out of the last playoff spot. And you know what? I’ll take it.