By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (5-15): The Knicks return home after a second straight disappointing loss to follow the two convincing wins against Brooklyn and Orlando just before. Last night in Cleveland, they fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first quarter but were able to fight back to cut the deficit to one point before halfime. But they were unable to contain Kyrie Irving, who went off for 37 points and 11 assists. Carmelo Anthony did his part to keep the Knicks in the game (29 points on 12-of-19 shooting), as did Amar'e Stoudemire, who continues to score efficiently (15 on 7-of-10).
Chicago (8-10): The Bulls are trying to stay afloat after losing Derrick Rose for a second consecutive season to a knee injury. They are hanging on to the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs as of now, but they've lost eight of the last 10 and might be in need of a significant roster move if they want to compete this year. It's been a similar story in the Windy City, as Tom Thibodeau's team is in the top five defense (4th in points allowed per 100 possessions) but really struggles to manufacture points (25th on offense). In addition to Rose, they've been without Jimmy Butler (toe injury) for weeks and both Luol Deng (calf/achilles) and Joakim Noah (thigh) missed last night and would be questionable for tonight.
The Numbers Game
Stoudemire's 14.3 points-per-game average over the last three might not jump out at you, but then you notice that he's doing it in 22.6 minutes per and shooting an insane 73.9 percent from the floor over that time.
Matchup to Watch
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Tony Snell
We could be in for a showdown between these two rookies, both playing way above their draft positions as late first rounders. Snell, a rangy wing the Knicks had in for pre-draft workouts, has begun to emerge as a quality rotation player, shooting 35 percent from 3 and fitting into Thibodeau's defensive system. Like Hardaway, he's even been pressed into starting duty by injuries. For the Knicks' rookie, the challenge is to provide a spark off the bench for a team that has suddenly begun to struggle early in games.
What to Look For
Last night's contest in Cleveland got out of hand right off the bat, thanks in large part to the Knicks' getting into foul trouble. The Cavs got to the free throw line 16 times in the first quarter, compared to twice for the Knicks. The early foul trouble screwed up Coach Mike Woodson's rotations and he was forced to scramble as his team tried to fight back. J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani will need to shoot better than 10-for-31 for the Knicks to win tonight, but they can be encouraged by Smith's 4-for-9 shooting from downtown...Some injury news, as Kenyon Martin missed his second straight game with an ankle and would have to be considered questionable for tonight. Raymond Felton tweaked a hamstring in the second half in Cleveland, and said it would be unlikely that he plays in the second night of a back-to-back if it doesn't improve drastically by today.