Looking back at it now, the New York Knicks had a very successful offseason. Highlighted by star forward Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks are looking like a contending team in the Eastern Conference early on this season.
The Chicago Bulls, too, are contenders in the packed East. The Bulls are currently in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, while the Knicks are in 6th place.
I love Christmas for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is always the great NBA games. The Bulls lead it off tomorrow at 11 PM, and then it really gets interesting, with the Orlando Magic/Boston Celtics game and Miami Heat/LA Lakers game. The first three games are going to be exciting, however, the nightcap doesn't look too promising.
The OKC Thunder/Denver Nuggets game has potential to being a good game, if Carmelo Anthony plays. But the final game of the day -- Portland Trailblazers/GS Warriors -- isn't one I look forward to. But being a basketball lover, I'll be watching.
Getting back to the Bulls, I believe it's a very important game for them against the Knicks. Not only is it a nationally televised game, something that should bring the best out of teams, but the Bulls got dismantled the last time these two teams faced off -- as the Knicks beat the Bulls 120 to 112 at the United Center back on November 4th.
The score wasn't indicative to what really happened -- the Bulls were down double-digits for most of the night and couldn't stop the Knicks.
Let's take a look at the keys for the Bulls to get past the Knicks:
Keys to the game--
Keep them off the three-point line
The Knicks shoot an NBA-best 24.8 three-pointers per game. The last time these teams faced off, the Knicks made 16 three-pointers. That was the difference in the game.
As Stacey King says in his telecasts, the Bulls have to KYP -- know your personnel. The Bulls have to defend the three-point line and know who's a shooter and who isn't.
Offense wasn't the problem for the Bulls last time against the Knicks, as they shot 50% from the field and 47.4% from the three-point line. They have to step up defensively, and that starts off defending the area where the Knicks love to jack-up shots from -- the three-point line.
Shooting 16 for 24 from the three-point line is crazy; the Knicks had a very hot shooting game last time. I don't see them repeating their effort the last time they faced the Bulls, but the Bulls have to do their best to defend them.
Key stat to win: Rebounds
The Knicks have a very small lineup -- with Amar'e Stoudemire at center and Wilson Chandler/Galinari at PF. With Noah, this would be a game in which I'd assume the Bulls would dominate the glass.
But without Noah, I still think the Bulls should maintain the rebounding advantage. As Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago reported earlier today, coach Tom Thibodeau will again go with Kurt Thomas in his starting lineup tomorrow night.
Thomas has rebounded well for the Bulls in his two starts -- averaging 7.5 in his two starts.
Assuming Thomas takes Stoudemire, it will lead Carlos Boozer to guarding Chandler or Galinari. I think a Boozer-Chandler matchup is much better than a Boozer-Galinari one.
Boozer has had trouble running out to the three-point line and doesn't have great awareness on defense. Chandler is also perimeter-oriented, but definitely not as much as Galinari.
Nonetheless, the Bulls should hold the rebounding advantage tomorrow against the smaller Knicks lineup.
Don't fold under the bright lights on Christmas Day
It just feels like in previous years Bulls teams have always folded during big games on holidays. Or maybe it's just me.
Whatever the case, the Bulls need to come out with a business-type attitude tomorrow against the Knicks; this is a big game in the standings and it's important to extract revenge against a team that beat you on your homecourt early in the season.
Send a message to the Knicks tomorrow: you beat us once, but won't beat us again.
It's a privilege to play on Christmas Day, a big win in the bright lights on National TV would yet again show fans that the Bulls are legit.
I personally can't wait for tomorrow; it will be all NBA, all day.
This Bulls team isn't the type that would roll over on a big holiday game, but they'll have to bring intensity in order to take one in New York.
Wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a great time with your family.