The Pick: Knicks 99-90
When you consider picking on or against the Knicks, the point spread shouldn’t be a big deterrent. New York has played 20 games this season and they are being decided by an average of 13.3 points, a number that will cover most nights provided you pick the winning team. Of course, picking the winning team is a bit more difficult in Knick games than in most. They are just as capable of getting hot from deep and pouring in 121 points like they did on Friday, as they are from going ice cold in a pathetic 73-point effort just 48 hours after.
The Bulls are banged up, and I’m not just talking Derrick Rose. Jimmy Butler has been sidelined for a few weeks (turf toe) while Joakim Noah and Luol Deng both sat out last night’s game and are being labeled as “day-to-day”. This is a team that was going to struggle to score without Rose, but with three of the other starters dealing with nagging injuries, scoring has become a chore.
But that’s not a big deal, right? They are the third-best scoring defense in the league and the Knicks are a very limited offense team, so 85 points probably wins this game, right?
Well, not exactly. While it is true that the Knicks are limited, they have the potential to exploit the Bulls lone’ defensive weakness: the 3-point shot. Chicago is allowing opponents to make 39.7 percent of their triples, the second-worst mark in the NBA and a major concern against the second-leading offense in terms of 3-point attempts.
The Bulls struggled to guard the post last night (John Henson scored 25 points on 65 percent shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds), a flaw that Amar’e Stoudemire (averaging 12 points on 73-percent shooting in December) could exploit should Noah or Deng be limited or inactive.
Are the injuries simply too much for even a Thibodeau team to overcome? Chicago has been relying on Deng since the Rose injury, but he can only do so much. The Knicks could win in a rout, and even if they aren’t making their shots early, the Bulls don’t have the firepower to take advantage.
Fun Fact: The Knicks get killed for being soft (because they are) and the Bulls get bonus points for their grit, yet New York has a better offensive rebounding differential for the season,