By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 12:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG NETWORK
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: After picking up what Carmelo Anthony called a "must win" in Charlotte on Friday night, the Knicks return home looking to even their record at 3-3. It was their first game without Tyson Chandler, and they stepped up in a big way. Andrea Bargnani did his best Chandler impression with five blocks, the ball moved crisply on offense, and Melo turned in an all-around performance with 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists. They'll hope to carry over the effort to this afternoon as they face the team Mike Woodson described simply as "winners." For the first time this season, they'll have the help of J.R. Smith, who could provide a big boost as he returns from his five-game suspension.
San Antonio: The Spurs roll into Madison Square Garden sporting a 5-1 record and having won three in a row. It's business as usual in San Antonio, with Tony Parker operating as a one-man fastbreak and Tim Duncan still playing almost 30 minutes a night of near-perfect basketball. Manu Ginobili isn't the volume scorer he once was, but he can still be brilliant running a pick-and-roll. Small forward Kawhi Leonard is still only 22 years old but has become a reliable third option on offense and a versatile wing stopper. The Spurs come in with the third-best defensive rating in the league.
The Numbers Game
The Spurs have 10 international players on their team, representing seven different countries.
Matchup to Watch
Andrea Bargnani vs. Tiago Splitter
Bargani comes off his best game as a Knick in his first start at center. Woodson gave him 35 minutes and he responded with 25 points and eight rebounds to go with the blocked shots. He was assertive within the flow of the offense and active on D. He'll line up against Splitter, who signed a multi-year extension this summer after establishing himself as the Spurs' anchor in the paint last season. The Brazilian big man is a good defender who runs the floor well, can knock down a jumper or finish with a left hook around the hoop.
What to Look For
As Smith makes his much-anticipated season debut, all eyes will be on how he fits into the rotation. Woodson said he could be the first sub off the bench. Whenever he takes the floor, his coach will be expecting him to jump right in...Woodson announced he'll start two point guards again, (Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Bargnani), just as he did in Charlotte...The Knicks' focus will be building a wall to contain Parker. The Spurs create exquisite spacing on offense and move the ball well, so New York will have to stay disciplined in its rotations and close out hard on shooters..Gregg Popovich is known to use the early season to tinker with rotations. Anyone in uniform is a candidate to play at any time.