[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview -yfbb]
The Bulls fell victim to fatigue the last time they faced the Knicks. How will they fare with fresher legs tonight?
Happy new year BlogaBull! Hope you didn't do too much celebrating last night, because other than a bunch of ultimately meaningless college football games today, the Chicago Bulls have a new year's day date tonight with the visiting New York Knicks. These two teams met a little under two weeks ago following the Bulls' quadruple overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons the night prior, and as one could probably imagine, it didn't go so well for a Bulls team that appeared gassed by halftime. Derrick Rose admitted as much when he said following the game, "You're a little fatigued but I feel everybody felt it tonight. I think everybody gave it their all, at least what they had, and just didn't have it tonight." Despite the fact that the previous game they played also went to overtime, the Bulls have had significantly more time to rest than they did for the last game against the Knicks, so we should expect a renewed effort from them this evening.
As for the Knicks themselves, they've shown some flashes of quality basketball this season but have proven to be very inconsistent up to this point. Since November 15th, the Knicks have amassed an 11-12 record that includes two four game winning streaks as well as two four game losing streaks. They don't rank in the top third of the league in any metric statistics except for turnover ratio and offensive rebounding rate, and they're not much of a better team offensively than the Bulls are with an offensive efficiency rating of 100.9 points per hundred possessions (tied for 22nd overall, still 1.5 points higher than what the Bulls average at 27th overall). They're a little better on the defensive end, but an examination of their defensive play type statistics reveals that they are average to below average at defending everything but post up plays and the P&R roll man. Even for a Bulls team that has starved for scoring at various points this season, they shouldn't have too much trouble putting up enough points at home to come away with a win.
However, it may not even take a herculean effort from the Bulls on offense, as the Knicks are so bad on offense and the Bulls are so good on defense that it could simply come down to which team scores 90 first . Despite what some people may have you believe, the Bulls are still an elite defensive team that boast a tremendous record of 15-1 when holding opponents to under 100 points this season. Fortunately for the Bulls, even though they have clearly struggled defending the pick & roll thus far, the Knicks are arguably the worst team in the NBA at running it. The Philadelphia Incompetents are the only team that ranks lower than the Knicks in terms of the ball handler scoring off of P&R plays, and the Knicks are also the very worst team in the NBA at having the roll man score on such plays. They aren't particularly elite at running anything other than isolation sets on offense (where they are arguably the best in the league), but the Bulls are top five in defending such plays which somewhat cancels this out. In theory, the Bulls really shouldn't have any trouble defending the Knicks provided they keep Carmelo Anthony from doing too much damage.
It may be a close game for a bit, but make no mistake: this is a game that the Bulls should win. Perhaps not comfortably, but it will certainly be a massive disappointment if the Knicks manage to eclipse a hundred points again while the Bulls struggle to get above ninety. That being said, the Knicks just don't have enough talent outside of Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis to be considered legitimate competitors, and the Bulls really should come away with a victory provided their offense doesn't vanish from the court.
Tip is at 8 ET, 7 CT. Cleanthony Early will be out for the Knicks following successful knee surgery after being robbed shot in the leg outside of a club on Wednesday morning. Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah are both still out, and Derrick Rose is a game time decision after sitting against the Pacers the other day with a hamstring injury. If Rose is not at 100%, I would expect him to stay out.