Knicks vs. Bulls 1 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
New York: As seen in the two losses under interim head coach Mike Woodson, the team bounced back in a big way on Thursday night. Following each of the defeats with Woodson at the helm, New York has dominated its opponent in the next game. The last romp over Orlando placed the Knicks back in the win column and one game ahead of Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. New York’s postseason fate could be determined over the six games with contests against Chicago twice, Milwaukee, Washington, Miami, and Boston next Tuesday night. Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire are out for the Knicks but Jared Jeffries and Bill Walker could be available for Sunday’s game at MSG.
Chicago: The reigning MVP has missed 22 games this season and 12 consecutive but the Bulls have managed to secure the top spot in the NBA standings. Interesting enough, the last time Derrick Rose suited up for Chicago was in a win over the Knicks on March 12. Rose injured his groin in that matchup and has vowed to make his return on Sunday afternoon at the Garden in front of a nationally televised audience. Chicago is 8-4 in this latest stretch without Rose while utilizing C.J. Watson and John Lucas at the point guard spot. The team has also signed veteran guard Mike James for the remainder of the season as insurance down the stretch. On Sunday, the Bulls faced Oklahoma City, Thursday they battled Boston, and their next three games include two contests against New York before hosting Miami on April 12.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks salvaged the final contest of the two-game road set in Orlando with a dominating 96-80 victory over the Magic on Thursday night.
Chicago: Behind 26 points from Luol Deng, the Bulls topped the Celtics 93-86 at the United Center.
The Numbers Game
If the season ended today, Tyson Chandler (67.5%) would have the third best field goal percentage for a season behind Wilt Chamberlain, who has the top mark in 1972 and No. 2 for his 1966 season.
Match-up to Watch
Knicks Backcourt vs. Derrick Rose
In the previous matchup against the Bulls, Rose dropped 32 impactful points to go along with seven assists in 43 minutes of action. His jaw-dropping dunk with six minutes left in the game put Chicago ahead by seven points and launched the Windy City crowd into frenzy. If the incredibly athletic Rose returns 100 percent, he will be a handful for the Knicks backcourt members. Without Lin in the lineup, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas, and even J.R. Smith will get a crack at the 2010-11 MVP. Shumpert might be the best option with his strength and ball-hawking abilities on the perimeter. However, a complete team defensive scheme is needed to force Rose into deep jump shots and challenged attempts in the paint. Make no mistake about it; Rose is the No. 1 offensive option for the Bulls despite their winning record with him on the sidelines.
What to Look For
Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton will face the Knicks after missing the last contest and New York will be without Lin and Stoudemire. Regardless of the altered lineups, the key for both squads is the battle on the boards on Sunday afternoon. In a close, physical game in early March, the Bulls outrebounded the Knicks 56-38 and more importantly, 22-9 on the offensive glass. With a more even rebounding performance, New York could have escaped Chicago with a monumental victory. This game is a preview of a potential first round playoff matchup and will serve as a measuring stick for a much improved Knicks team in their pursuit of securing a postseason berth.