Am I the only one who reads headlines like "Thomas to continue starting" and thinks "We traded Tyrus away!". Probably. The Chicago Bulls head out on the road on Christmas day to take on the New York Knicks.
Am I the only one who finds it odd that the Knicks received the home game for this matchup? Wouldn't the Bulls have been considered the more marquee team in preseason? Granted, the Knicks have exceeded expectations while the Bulls have met them, but I would have thought in preseason the Bulls would have deserved the honor of hosting.
Must be that second city paranoia coming out.
In the first matchup, the Bulls held Amare in check, which wasn't particularly unusual at the time as he started the season off slowly. However, the Knicks went on fire shooting 75% from the three point line while the game mattered and simply beat the Bulls entirely based on their three point shooting.
The Bulls will now be missing Joakim Noah but will have Carlos Boozer for the matchup. The Knicks are unlikely to shoot as well, but have Amare Stoudemire playing at an MVP level.
For that matter, this matchup highlights a couple of MVP candidates in Rose vs Amare. Given the national attention the game deserves, don't be surprised if it helps swing some votes from one side based on the results.
Keys to the game
Taj Gibson needs to contain Amare
With Joakim out, there simply is no one else. Kurt Thomas has done an admirable job of roughly guys up around the paint, but he sure as heck isn't chasing Amare around the perimeter or shutting down an Amare/Felton pick and roll. Carlos Boozer has played great offensively, but his defense isn't anything to write home about.
The Bulls need a healthy dose of high energy Taj Gibson to slow Amare and still need to send plenty of help.
Cover up the shooters
While the Knicks are unlikely to crush the Bulls from the three point line to the level they did last game, they're still a very good three point shooting team. The Bulls need to get out and cover the perimeter. In fact, the majority of the Knicks want to just hang around the perimeter particularly in the D'Antoni offense. Try and force long twos rather than catch and shoot threes.
There are some teams you need to defend the three point line against nearly as vigorously as the paint, and the Knicks are one of those teams. Last game, the Bulls did an excellent job of shutting down the paint, and the Knicks hit many contested threes, but the Bulls need to rotate just a shade tighter to contest a bit more strongly this time around.
Beat them up inside
The Knicks don't have a lot of strong interior players. Amare has the physical capability, but he doesn't have the heart for it. A healthy dose of Boozer in the low post is likely to generate a whole lot of points and soften up the defense for Derrick Rose to do this thing.
Derrick Rose should have plenty of success driving to the basket, against one of the more porous defenses in the NBA as well.
The Knicks and Bulls are both playing quality basketball. Though the Knicks have lost a few games recently, one was a tenth of a second away from a win against Boston, and another was to Miami. They're at home, they're rested, and they're healthier than we are.
Missing Noah for this game really hurts as his type of defense is particularly well suited to a team that launches a lot of shots from the perimeter.
That said, the Bulls have the offensive weapons to really take it to the Knicks. I think the game could go either way, but if I was putting money on it, I'd probably take the Knicks at home when the Bulls are without Noah.