By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls | The Time Warner Cable Arena
When: Friday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG NETWORK
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks have struggled out of the gates, compiling a 1-3 record as they try to find a groove on both ends of the floor. Now, after losing Tyson Chandler in Tuesday's loss to the same Bobcats they face tonight, they are tasked with replacing their All-Star center for the next 4-6 weeks. Carmelo Anthony told reporters that the team held a players-only meeting to address the slow start, saying: "it is early, but there are things we need to fix, and we need to fix now." Among those things: an offense that ranked third in the NBA last season but is currently 24th.
Charlotte: The Bobcats have jumped out to a surprising 3-2 start, including Tuesday's win at Madison Square Garden. They rank near the bottom of the league on offense, but have scrapped their way to the 13th-best defense mostly by playing hard. They'll again be without marquee offseason acquisition, Al Jefferson, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle. They could also be without their head coach for the game, according to reports:
Steve Clifford hospitalized overnight. May or may not coach tonight.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) November 8, 2013
The Numbers Game
The Knicks will start Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton in the backcourt together tonight, and perhaps regularly until Chandler returns. That could be a very positive move, as the team has been wildly successful, especially on defense, with that alignment. In 31 minutes together this season, the 5-man unit of Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler has posted an absurdly good defensive rating of 68.6 (points allowed per 100 possessions) and a 27.8 net rating -- meaning they outscored their opponent by 27.8 points per 100 possessions with that group on the floor.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Already written off by some because of his shooting issues, Kidd-Gilchrist reminded Knicks fans why Charlotte took him with the No. 2 overall pick two years ago. The former Kentucky Wildcat made his name by using his incredible 7-foot wingspan (he is 6-5 without shoes) to become a tenacious defender, and he showed that on Tuesday by harrassing Melo for most of the game on Tuesday. Anthony got his, finishing with 32 points but needing 28 shots to get there. Both of these forwards have positional versatility, but expect to see them match up again tonight.
What to Look For
Coach Mike Woodson ruled out a roster move for the time being, meaning that Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire, previously on minute limits, are likely to be pressed into extended action in Chandler's absence. Andrea Bargnani will also be asked to play some center, and Cole Aldrich could enter the rotation. With the two point guards starting, expect to see more of Beno Udrih and potentially even the NBA debut of Toure' Murry, who happens to be celebrating his birthday today. If Clifford is unable to return to the bench tonight, Patrick Ewing would assume the role of head coach.