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Bulls vs. Knicks game preview and open thread

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The Unicorn vs. The Markksman round three

NBA: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (14-27) at New York Knicks (19-21)

6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago

Injury Report:

The $71 million man himself Tim Hardaway Jr. remains sidelined with a stress reaction in his lower left leg. He scrimmaged with the team yesterday, but the Knicks haven’t entertained a timetable for his return just yet.

Forward Michael Beasley is questionable for the game tonight with an ankle injury.

Nikola Mirotic traveled with the team to New York, but wasn’t at shootaround and is doubtful for the game tonight with an illness. This is the second game he’ll miss with this ailment.

Preview:

Initiate the Lauri Markkanen versus Kristaps Porzingis battle part three.

If you just want to look at points, Porzingis has decisively won each of the first two battles (although the Bulls are 2-0 against the Knicks this season). However, in those two games, Markkanen and Porzingis have averaged the same number of rebounds (5.0 per game), while Markkanen has shot the ball better than Porzingis (41.4 percent to 40.4 percent) including from 3-point land (23.1 percent to 15.4 percent).

It’s always fun to watch Markkanen battle Porzingis and see flashes of the latter in the former and Porzingis has spoken highly of Markkanen throughout the season. Per ESPN writer Ian Begley.

“He’s having a great year so far. He can shoot it from outside. He’s actually much more stronger than I was when I came into the league. I would say he’s more NBA ready than (I was) when I came in.” -Kristaps Porzingis

After a surprisingly hot start, the Knicks have dropped seven of their last ten games and find themselves below .500 and on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in.

The Knicks were one of the Bulls first victims during that inexplicable seven-game winning streak in December. On Dec. 9, Kris Dunn nailed two free throws late to sink the Knicks 104-102 in a tightly contested battle. Mirotic scored 19 points and David Nwaba chipped in 15 points to help the Bulls record the victory. In a second matchup between the two teams three weeks later, the Bulls rallied late and Dunn hit a pair of free throws with three seconds on the clock to extend the lead to five and seal a 92-87 victory for the Bulls.

Beloved former Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah played 15 minutes combined in two games on Dec. 30 and Jan. 2, but hasn’t played in three games since then. Will Noah play for the first time this season against the Bulls? All Bulls fans beg you to make this happen Jeff Hornacek.

Former Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Doug McDermott has posted his best shooting numbers of his career in a revitalization season of sorts with the New York Knicks.

Why mention these players of the past? It’s a nostalgic time for Chicago Bulls fans because we’re on the doorstep of completely closing the book on the Tom Thibodeau era in Chicago.

With Mirotic mucked up in all sorts of trade rumors and still puking his brains out after his experiment with mayonnaise and jelly sandwiches, he could have played his last game in a Bulls uniform (the Bulls can officially trade him on Jan. 15). Mirotic is the last player on the current Chicago Bulls roster who played for Thibodeau in Chicago. If Mirotic leaves, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio will become the longest-tenured Bulls.

Plus, with Zach LaVine set to make his much-anticipated return on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls roster could have a dramatically different feel to it by next week. Finally, in addition to Mirotic, other veterans on the Bulls like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday could be on their way out of town via trades soon as well.

Can the Bull band together one last time with just the seven-game winning streak crew (minus Mirotic) and pull together one more win before things in Chicago change?

With their mothers in attendance for this one, all the Bulls players will even have an extra incentive to squeak out a win in Madison Square Garden tonight.