If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. So the saying goes. The Chicago Bulls take their game on the road for Friday night’s matchup with the New York Knicks, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 19-6. In fact, the Knicks have a league-best 11-1 record playing at home in Madison Square Garden. They say it’s the world’s most famous arena. Legends have been made playing under those lights. It’s clearly no time for fake ones. Step up or step off. And yes, Luol Deng, that memo is for you.
Carmelo Anthony is the NBA’s second leading scorer with an average of 28 points per game. Anthony hasn’t scored below 30 points in his last three games–putting up 45 and 31 against the Brooklyn Nets, along with hanging 30 on the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, his lowest point production this month was 23 against the Charlotte Bobcats. The MVP chants are well-deserved.
If the Bulls stand a chance tonight battling the Knicks–not to mention Spike Lee on the front row–Deng has got to bring an All-Star caliber performance of his own tonight on both ends of the floor. With Anthony starting at power forward for the Knicks, Carlos Boozer would likely draw the defensive assignment. Good luck with that, Booz. I don’t expect that to work at all, so look for coach Tom Thibodeau to likely mix it up when it comes to ‘Melo. Taj Gibson, who claims he’ll play after being out with an ankle injury, is more athletic than Boozer, so that is a viable option. His length and ability to run might be able to frustrate Carmelo. Also, if all else fails, look for Deng to spend some time guarding Carmelo as well. Prayerfully drastic measures won’t be needed.
Defense can only carry you so far though. Most importantly, the Bulls must put up points going against a team that averages nearly 103 points per game. The Bulls offense has been a work in progress all season. No more of those 71-point nights like earlier this week against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. That’s simply unacceptable. Deng needs to shoot the ball often and accurately because his shot has been tepid in December. Make it right tonight, Lu. The Bulls will need all hands on deck to get this W. Kirk Hinrich, please wake up and participate. His mediocre production is way too low for a point guard who plays 27 minutes per game. Do something. It’s a nationally-televised game. Please act like it.
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