By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bulls | United Center
When: Thursday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
New York: The streak continues. It's gotten to the point where little, individual streaks have formed within it. Records are being challenged. All of this creates a sort of sideshow to the main event -- the playoffs are fast approaching and the Knicks are in position to lock up the 2 seed. Tonight, they go for 14 in a row against a Bulls team that can't score (23rd in offensive efficiency), but still makes life difficult with their stingy defense. Neither Tyson Chandler nor Kenyon Martin traveled with the team, so both will be out tonight and tomorrow.
Chicago: The Bulls have been without former MVP Derrick Rose for the entire season. They've almost completely turned over a bench that had been very productive for them in past years. And yet they are still right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They've slipped just out of the top 5 in defensive efficiency (they are currently 6th), but that remains their calling card. Locked in a virtual tie with Atlanta for the 5th seed, these last few games will likely determine if they face Brooklyn or Indiana in the first round.
Update: The Bulls have said that Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose are all out tonight. Luol Deng is a gametime decision.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks blew out the injury-riddled Wizards on Tuesday, 120-99, by tying a franchise record with 20 made three-pointers.
Chicago: Despite a 4th quarter rally, the Bulls lost to the Raptors, 101-98, on Tuesday.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks lead the league in both three-pointers made and fewest turnovers committed.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Jimmy Butler
You know you are going well when a 36-point effort brings down your scoring average over the last five games. Such is life for Carmelo Anthony, as he closes in on what would be his first career NBA scoring title. He's on a tear, and scoring 40.6 points a night over the last five has opened things up for his teammates, as we saw against Washington. Butler has emerged for Chicago has an absolute steal as the 30th pick in the draft two years ago. He's long and can do a little bit of everything. A lot like Luol Deng, Thibodeau has come to lean on Butler, as evidenced by the fact that he played all 48 minutes against Toronto the other night.
What to Look For
Without Martin and Chandler available, Woodson will again have to juggle his rotations. The Bulls may have slipped a little in their defensive rating, but with outstanding defenders like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler executing Tom Thibodeau's system, opponents know they are in for a long evening. Chicago has won all three previous matchups, so even though the Knicks are not at full strength, it would be nice to scratch out a victory. A possible second round playoff matchup looms, so whatever confidence can be gleaned from a win tonight would be nice to have.