As the season winds down, games against Eastern Conference opponents are starting to ramp up in significance for the Chicago Bulls if they haven’t already. On Monday they got a huge victory on the road against the Miami Heat. Chicago battled back from early deficits to take the lead in the fourth quarter and hit clutch shots down the stretch to win 110-102.
The victory now puts Chicago at a record of 26-35, still 11th in the East. However, they did make up ground on the 10th place Washington Wizards, who lost on Monday to the San Antonio Spurs. The Bulls are now one game behind the Wizards for the final play-in spot and have a tiny bit of a gap between them and Toronto now with the Raptors being half a game back of Chicago in 12th. The Wizards play the Los Angeles Lakers tonight while the Raptors are idle.
Meanwhile, up the standings a bit, It’s been quite the season for the New York Knicks. With new head coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm, they currently have a record of 34-28 and have won nine of their last 10. The Knicks are currently tied for 4th in the East with the Atlanta Hawks but are only two games ahead of both Boston and Miami. In fact, only 4.5 games separate 4th and 9th so a lot of shuffling could take place in the last weeks of the regular season. After a long winning streak which included wins against the Lakers, Hawks, Mavericks, and Grizzlies, New York finally suffered a loss on Monday. It came at the hand of the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Knicks 118-110 in Madison Square Garden. Devin Booker scored 33 points along with Chris Paul scoring 20 to beat a New York team which got 22 from Derrick Rose and 18 from Julius Randle.
The key for Chicago defensively will be stopping Randle. He’s been on fire this season, averaging 23.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and six assists per game (all of these are career highs). He’s also seen a massive increase in his three-point shooting efficiency, shooting 41.8 percent from deep this season after never shooting better than 35 percent in any prior seasons. It will be a huge defensive task for Chicago’s bigs. Look for possibly Daniel Theis to be guarding Randle early on or possibly even Patrick Williams. Then when the reserves come in, it could be Thaddeus Young’s assignment.
Injury Report: It’s the same report as it has been for the past couple of games for Chicago. Troy Brown Jr. is out with a left ankle sprain while Zach LaVine is still out due to health and safety protocols.
As for the Knicks, they will be getting back Alec Burks as he returns from being on the health and safety protocols list. Mitchell Robinson is still out as he recovers from right foot surgery.
Game Time: 6:30 PM CT, NBC Sports Chicago PLUS
Odds: The Knicks are a four point favorite heading into this game. As for the over/under, it is set at 209.5 at most places but you can also find totals for 209 and 208.5 as well (all info via the Action Network)