The New York Knicks have won 13 games in a row, but have lost all of their games against the Chicago Bulls this season. Of course, this just happens to be the team New York is set to face tonight at the United Center.
However, Round 4 could be to the Knicks’ advantage. Though two key members are set to miss this game with injuries, the Bulls are also a bit banged up. One important piece will miss this game with a nagging injury, and other key Chicago players are question marks as well.
This opens the door for the Knicks’ red-hot offense to get past the Bulls’ incredibly stingy defense, not to mention keep their momentum going as the playoffs draw closer.
Time: Thursday, April 11, 8 p.m. ET
Injuries: Derrick Rose (knee, day-to-day), Taj Gibson (knee, out), Luol Deng (hip, day-to-day), Joakim Noah (foot, out), Rasheed Wallace (foot, out), Amar’e Stoudemire (knee, out), Kurt Thomas (foot, out), Marcus Camby (foot, out), Kenyon Martin (ankle, out), Tyson Chandler (neck, out)
Key Matchup: Carmelo Anthony vs. Carlos Boozer
The Bulls’ defensive goal tonight is simple: slow down Anthony. The Knicks’ star scorer is leading the league with 28.6 points per game and has managed to shoot 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range. Over his last five games, however, he has been borderline unstoppable.
Anthony is averaging 40.6 points and 8.2 rebounds through that stretch, not to mention shooting 61 percent from the field and 59 percent from long range. No matter how you look at it, that’s a tough attack for Boozer to guard.
The Bulls’ power forward has the size at 6’9″, 260 pounds to contain Anthony, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he has been a disappointment in the Windy City. This season, he has posted just 16.9 points and 9.5 boards per game while shooting 48 percent from the field.
The man has been better over his last five games, averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds while making 47 percent of his attempts, but just trying to stop Anthony is going to be a chore. Not only must he slow down the scoring attack of a man who is so great at creating his own shot, but he must also be an offensive force in his own right.
Seeing as how Boozer has been anything but the double-double machine he was for the Utah Jazz since joining Chicago in 2010, it’s a strong possibility that he could be in for a long game tonight.
X-Factor: Steve Novak
Novak is only a three-point shooter, but outscoring the Bulls, the worst scoring team in the league, is a large key to a 14th consecutive New York victory. This means that Novak needs to be a scoring machine whenever on the court.
The man is only averaging 6.7 points on the season, but has shot 43 percent from beyond the arc. More importantly, in games in which Novak scores in double figures, the Knicks are an eye-popping 30-8. He may only play just under 20 minutes per game, but the man is clearly an important offensive weapon and not given the credit he is due.
So long as Novak can be at his best and make all of his threes, and not hesitate one bit, New York has a shot. Otherwise, the Knicks’ excellent winning streak will come to an end.
Under normal circumstances, I’d say this game would result in the end of the Knicks’ winning streak. But that’s not the case, as Chicago is without one of its key interior players in Noah. New York is too, but the team’s scoring attack has still been incredibly lights out and better than anything Chicago has been able to do on offense this year.
As a result, thanks to another great scoring night from Anthony as well as some clutch shots from sixth man J.R. Smith, the Knicks will extend the streak to 14 on the backs of a strong offense combined with great on-ball defense. Nothing against the Bulls, but they just don’t have what it takes to win this game unless Rose decides to suit up.
A season sweep will not be in the cards, and all the Bulls will be able to do is watch stunned as New York celebrates at the final buzzer.
New York Knicks 99, Chicago Bulls 91