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Bulls vs. Knicks preview: battle of the play-in hopefuls

Thib and D-Rose (okay, okay, and Ryan Arcidiacono) return to the UC

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Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Tonight your 11-15 Chicago Bulls return to national TV for their first of two matchups against Tom Thibodeau’s 14-13 New York Knicks this week. Chicago will play New York three times over the next 10 days, today’s and Friday’s game being at home. These games should serve as an excellent barometer for where both clubs stack up in the middle of the East.

The Bulls almost had a three-game win streak on its hands for the first time this season Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks, but the team’s inability to contain the Hawks’ pick-and-roll actions and a general dependence on DeMar DeRozan to bail out its own offense doomed it in overtime. Non-DDR Bulls being less-than-clutch sure didn’t help matters much, either.

The Bulls may get some serious injury luck on their side again, as starting Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, who’s been probably their best player, is questionable with a right foot contusion.

Even still, New York has been on a relative hot streak of its own, having won its last four contests against 3 solid clubs who the Bulls have lost to (Cavaliers, Hawks, and Kings) plus one gimme against the Hornets.

The Knicks are in many ways a typically Thibs-ian team at present, with an old-school shot profile and a surprisingly robust defense. The team ranks 9th in defensive rating. They rank dead last in three-point percentage across the league (31.9%), though their 34.1 attempts slots them into the top ten three-point tries (we know where the Bulls are, here).

Brunson and Julius Randle (who’s having a sneaky-good, semi-comeback season) are the Knicks’ most formidable scoring threats. A Brunson absence would likely mean more touches for starting shooting guard Quentin Grimes, and probably a starting gig for key reserve point guard Immanuel Quickley. Small forward RJ Barrett can be an X-factor.

The Knicks also have depth at center. Would I rather have rim-rolling, hyper-athletic Mitchell Robinson, even with his lengthy injury history, than Nikola Vucevic manning the middle for Chicago? Probably. Heck, I’d almost rather have Isaiah Hartenstein!

Injury Report: Alex Caruso, who missed the Hawks game with a low back contusion, has been listed as probable to make his return to the starting lineup. Ayo Dosunmu, who left that game early with a pelvic contusion, is questionable.

For the Knicks, beyond Brunson’s status there’s Obi Toppin listed is out for the next two-to-three weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula head. Ex-Bull Ryan Arcidiacono has somehow, incredibly, found his way onto another roster, but he is doubtful for tonight’s potential revenge game due to a sprained left ankle.

TV: ESPN, NBC Sports Chicago

The Bulls will tip off against the Knicks at 6:30 PM CT. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.