Knicks Look to Bring The Smoke In Rematch With The Bulls

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports, image from empire sports media

The New York Knicks (2-8) will be taking on the Chicago Bulls (3-7) on the road at 8:00pm Eastern Time. The Bulls are listed as 5.5 point favorites even though the Knicks won their last matchup. The Knicks are coming off a debilitating loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers that has left the team and Coach Fizdale searching for answers. The Knicks will be fighting for their jobs tonight, hoping to regain confidence and stability amongst the rumors swirling about possible changes within the organization.

Starting Lineups- With 2 Attributes That Will Be Impactful Tonight (Strength, Weakness)

PositionNew York KnicksChicago Bulls
PG Frank Ntilikina (setting up the offense, scoring in the paint)Tomas Satoransky (facilitating, defense)
SGRJ Barrett (energy, defense/free throw shooting)Zach Lavine (scoring, turnovers)
SF Marcus Morris Sr. (three point shooting, turnovers) Chandler Hutchinson (defense, free throw shooting)
PF Julius Randle (scoring, defense)Lauri Markkanen (scoring, shooting percentage)
C Taj Gibson (rebounding, shot blocking)Wendell Carter Jr. (rebounding/shot blocking, free throws)

Matchup Of The Night

RJ Barrett vs. Zach Lavine

Both of these guards are known for their scoring and not their defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ntilikina spends some time in this game guarding Lavine instead of Barrett to try and put more pressure on him. Barrett is coming off three poor shooting games and back to back games without scoring 10 points or more. The Knicks will look for their rookie phenom to get back on track and carry more of the scoring load against Lavine who has a poor defensive rating of 109.9 this season. Barrett has an even worse defensive rating of 111.3. Both of these guards can shoot the three ball, but score most of their points driving to the basket. Help defense will be critical in slowing both scorers down. Barrett has struggled a lot from the foul line and it has seemed to take away from his confidence and aggressiveness lately. A few made free throws early in this game, could boost RJ’s confidence and lead to a big scoring night for him. In their last matchup, Lavine led the Bulls in scoring with 21 points, while Barrett finished with 19.

Inactives

Knicks- Mitchell Robinson and Elfrid Payton

Bulls- Otto Porter Jr. and Cristiano Felicio

Key Statistics

  1. In their last matchup, the Bulls only shot 25.7% from three and were outrebounded by the Knicks 74-44. 
  2. The Bulls are 26th in the NBA in three point percentage at 31.4%. The Knicks have had issues contesting the three point line, so this is a good matchup for the Knicks.
  3. Chicago is 6th in the NBA in turnovers per game only averaging 14.4. There will be few fast breaks and transition scores, so New York will need to run their offense and find a way to limit stagnant possessions.
  4. The Bulls are 27th in the NBA in rebounds and defensive rebounds, averaging 42.4 and 32.4 per game. The Knicks are 1st in offensive rebounds, averaging 12.6 per game. The Knicks must take advantage and win the battle of the boards.
  5. The Bulls are 25th in the NBA in points per game (105.4) and the Knicks are 29th (99.2). This game will likely be low scoring and come down to rebounding, points in the paint, and free throws.
  6. RJ Barrett has shot 9 for 32 (28%) from the field, totalling just 27 points in his last three games. Barrett has a great matchup against Lavine and needs to score the ball like he has shown he’s capable of earlier in the season. 
  7. Lauri Markkanen is shooting 38.5% from the field and 27.9% from three this season. He is due for a big night and the Knicks must not leave him open and let him heat up.
  8. Thad Young scored 15 points off the bench for the Bulls the last time these teams faced each other. The Knicks will have a major advantage when the benched are on the floor if they can keep Young in check.

Keys To Winning

The Bulls bench is small, which should be a massive advantage for Bobby Portis. Portis was the leader in the Knicks previous win against his old team where he scored 28 points and grabbed 11 boards off the bench. Zach Lavine’s scoring and Lauri Markkanen’s shooting will be the focal point for the Knicks defense. Lavine is the Bulls top scorer averaging 19.5 points a contest. Markkanen is having a down shooting year, shooting under 40% from the floor and under 30% from three. Markkanen is a much better shooter than he has shown this season and it will be crucial the Knicks to not let him get hot and gain confidence, as he is due for a breakout game. Finally the Knicks must outrebound the Bulls to win this game as statistically the Knicks prowess is on the boards, while the Bulls have been plagued on the glass. The Knicks had 30 more rebounds than the Bulls in their last matchup!

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