Ahh, the Chicago Bulls vs the New York Knicks.
This is one series I simply love to watch even when the teams stink. There's so much history between the clubs. The Knicks played the nail to the Bulls hammer in the 90s, they traded a boatload of players back and forth in the 2000s, and there's always the Chicago vs NY big city pride thing going on.
On top of that, you had the teams competing for the same players in free agency this summer as well as competing for Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline coming up. The Knicks feel more entwined with the Bulls than any other team in the league which simply makes their matchups more fun.
I consider the Bulls the favorite in this game, but not an overwhelming one. As always, much depends on who steps up outside of Rose and Noah. I think we have certain expectations for those two which will be met, but we don't know what we'll get out of Luol Deng.
Deng scored the most points ever on 24 possessions against Portland, but he also failed to show up on offense for the previous two games. A repeat 40 point performance isn't likely, but can he give the Bulls 20 on 15 shots?
Who out of Korver, Brewer, Gibson, Asik, Bogans, Watson, and Johnson can come in and give the Bulls quality minutes?
Keys to the game:
1: Don't let the Knicks shoot their way out of a slump. They don't have particularly dangerous one on one players outside of Stoudemire, so just make sure to cover up on the shooters and don't let them work their way out of a slump here.
2: Control the fundamentals. When you play a team that you're better than, one of the primary keys is not to give the game away. Don't let turnovers and offensive rebounds keep the Knicks in the game by losing out on the hustle end.
3: Win the top line talent matchups. Our big three of Rose, Noah, and Deng is more talented, imo, than their big three of Amare, Felton, and Chandler. If we win the topline talent matchups then the Knicks bench isn't likely to pull the game out.
4: Put your foot down early. The Knicks play a game where they're probably favored tomorrow, and if the Bulls can climb out to a big lead then they may pack it in early and start shifting gears for their game the next night instead of expending energy in an unlikely comeback bid.
5: Go all out. Unlike the Knicks, the Bulls are massive underdogs in their game tomorrow, so lay everything on the line to win this one, because it's the one you can probably get.
The Bulls can jump off to a 3-1 start with a win here, and while a 2-2 start is far from disastrous, the schedule is about to get a heck of a lot harder on the west coast trip. Picking up wins in the games they're favored is awfully important at this stage in order to at least hold serve until Boozer comes back.