The Bulls (2-1) face the Knicks (1-2) tonight in the United Center. In recent days, the Bulls have had good news (Carlos Boozer got his cast off) and strange news (Derrick Rose skipped filming a cameo for “The Good Wife”), while the Knicks had to postpone a home game against the Magic due to an asbestos scare.
Speaking of which, how weird is this:
The Knicks — a presumably defenseless team that relies on Mike D’Antoni’s wacky offensive system to outscore their opponents — currently rank 24th in Offensive Rating (101.1) and 8th in Defensive Rating (102.4). Seriously.
As for the Bulls, they’re 15th in Offensive Rating (106.4) and 9th in Defensive Rating (102.6).
So…Tom Thibodeau’s team is worse at playing defense than Mike D’Antoni’s squad, but better at putting points on the board?
In related news: Dogs are now living with cats. Mass hysteria!
Anyway, the Knicks have played only three games, so you have to figure that Top 10 D-Rating is bound to drop back into the high 20s where it belongs. And the Bulls — who have also played only three games — should hopefully keep getting better. Fingers crossed.
New York is led by Amar’e Stoudemire (21.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Wilson Chandler (21.0 PPG), while the Bulls are getting by with Derrick Rose (27.7 PPG, 8.7 APG, 5.0 RPG) and Joakim Noah (14.3 PPG, 15.3 RPG). I would include Luol Deng (20.7 PPG), but his average was padded by his 40-point explosion against the Blazers.
The last time these two teams faced off in the United Center, the Bulls won 118-86. Of course, that was back when guys like Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Tyrus Thomas, John Salmons and Jannero Pargo were playing for Chicago, and David Lee, Al Harrington and Chris Duhon were still key cogs in New York’s machine.
So that game doesn’t tell us much of anything.
What may tell us something is the fact that the Knicks do a lot of running (9th in Pace Factor) but score only 98.0 PPG. And I already mentioned their lousy O-Rating. This team is struggling the score. The Bulls play good defense. See where I’m going with this?
One problem that’s been plaguing the Bulls in the early going is foul trouble. The Knicks may be the cure to that particular ill: New York ranks 29th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt. It makes sense. According to Hoopdata, the Knicks lead the league in three-point attempts (26.3 per game) but only 18th in shots attempted at the rim (22.0). Jacking up outside shots doesn’t earn many fouls.
The Knicks may not be attacking the rim, but they sure are defending it. New York ranks third in opponents’ at-the-rim field goal percentage (55.7).
Of course, these stats are all based on a pretty small sample size. Both teams have had major personnel turnover, so I have no idea what’s going to happen. I will tell you this, though. The Bulls are 12 days away from starting a seven-game Western Conference road trip.
That means they need to win every home game.