By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls | United Center
When: Sunday | 1:00 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (21-38): Coming off a defeat at the hands of Stephen Curry and the Warriors at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks head to Chicago needing to shore up a defense that has slipped to 26th in the NBA in points allowed per possession. Golden State scored 126 points in handing New York its 10th loss in the last 12 games, too high a number for the 13th-ranked offense to give up with any hopes of winning. Carmelo Anthony needed 26 shots to get to 23 points in one of his tougher shooting nights of the season, although he did pull down 16 rebounds to round out another solid effort. A bright spot for the Knicks was the play of bench contributors Toure' Murry (eight points, two assists, two rebounds), Earl Clark (eight points, four rebounds) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 points) off the bench.
Chicago (32-26): Tom Thibodeau's team comes into today with the second best defense in the NBA and the 28th best offense. This combination has them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, despite losing Derrick Rose for the season after 10 games and trading Luol Deng to Cleveland after 23. They are especially hot of late, winners of eight of nine heading into this afternoon's matchup. The dynamic tandem of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson powers the defensive scheme and this pair leads the team in player efficiency rating (PER).
The Numbers Game
Tyson Chandler has been rebounding the ball like a mad man, averaging 14.8 per game over the last five.
Matchup to Watch
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Tony Snell
Two of the more impressive rookies this season, Hardaway and Snell have become increasingly important cogs in their teams' rotations as the season's progressed. Snell is about an inch taller than Hardaway and probably a step ahead in his defensive development, whereas Hardaway has settled into a groove offensively as one of the Knicks' most confident scorers already. Both have outperformed their draft position in the 20s and figure prominently into their organizations' plans going forward.
What to Look For
The defining characteristic of this Bulls team is how hard it plays. J.R. Smith questioned the Knicks' sense of urgency in Friday night's loss; if they don't come out and compete from the opening tip against Chicago, it could be a long afternoon. The Bulls rank 26th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage, so it will be crucial for the Knicks to limit open perimater looks and prevent driving lanes to the rim. A troubling trend has developed over the last 12 games that involved Anthony doing the heavy lifting on offense and tailing off later in games. For the Knicks to be successful, they need to share the ball and make things easier on each other.