By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls – Madison Square Garden
When: Friday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks return home for the second game of a back-to-back after falling to the Pacers last night in Indy. They will welcome back Carmelo Anthony to the lineup, looking to get back on track after dropping four of their last six. The offense has struggled at times to generate consistent flow since Raymond Felton went down with his broken finger, and it will again count on Melo and J.R. Smith to provide the firepower. Marcus Camby, who had been inserted into the starting lineup after missing time early in the season with plantar fasciitis, left last night's game after injuring his foot, potentially leaving the Knicks fronstcourt shorthanded again for tonight's game.
Chicago: At 19-14, the Bulls have been hanging in there this season while they await the return of their superstar, Derrick Rose. Rose's recovery from knee surgery has been the driving story of their season, but Tom Thibodeau's team has quietly remained in the chase for the central Division crown. They do it with their trademark defensive intensity -- they enter Friday night ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive efficiency -- with Joakim Noah setting the tone along the back line for a system that rarely misses a rotation. They have won three of their last four, including a win over the Heat last Friday.
Last Time Out
New York: Playing without Carmelo Anthony, who was serving a one-game suspension, the Knicks battled but ultimately fell to the Pacers in Indiana, 81-76.
Chicago: The Bulls were victimized by a 35-point Brandon Jennings explosion in a 104-96 loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night.
The Numbers Game
If Camby can't play tonight, the Knicks will have their third different starting lineup in the past three games.
Match-up to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Joakim Noah
The anchors of their respective teams' defenses, Chandler and Noah are asked to do almost everything -- and they do it. Hedge on pick-and-rolls, provide weakside help, rotate out on shooters, body opposing big men in the post. Perhaps the two premier defensive true centers in the game, it should be fascinating to watch the two battle each other. Neither lets up on the intensity, so it will be a true test of will having to match the other all night long. On offense, both have limited shooting range but make up for it by setting hard screens and rolling hard to the hoop. Noah likes the handle the ball out of the high post and create offense for others, so that adds just another task to Chandler's list of responsibilities tonight.
What to Look For
The Bulls are known for their suffocating defense, so it will be up to the Knicks to work together to create clean looks for each other. Over the last two games, they have struggled when they get into the habit of playing isolation ball and settling for contested midrange jumpers. Getting Melo back should help take the pressure off of his teammates -- especially J.R. Smith, who had to put up 29 shots to get his 25 points against Indiana. Luol Deng leads the league in minutes per game, again, at just over 40 per game, so expect him to hound Anthony all game with his length and constant activity.