After giving the Knicks fits last year, second-year big man Lauri Markkanen is back looking to cause the 3-7 ‘Bockers another headache.

The Knicks (3-7) will have a short turnaround, after falling short on another late-game comeback bid against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.

They’ll look to keep that in the past, as they return home to host the Chicago Bulls (2-8) at Madison Square Garden, almost 24 hours after taking that tough loss. The Bulls are coming to New York with hopes to snap their four-game losing streak, a cold spell topped off by losses to the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets on Friday and Saturday.

This will be the first time that the two teams will meet this season. Last year, the Bulls dominated the regular season series, beating the Knicks in three out of four meetings. New York was able to avoid the sweep, thanks to a double digit win over Chicago in mid-March.


Almost the Exact Same

Looking at the foundation of the current Chicago roster and its season so far, there are a lot of similarities between the Bulls and the Knicks. The majority of the players on each team are young, with the Bulls fielding the youngest roster in the NBA with an average age of 24.4 years. The Knicks are right behind them in second, with 24.6 years.

Both squads have promising young talent, with some NBA veterans looking to jump-start their careers. Jabari Parker, once billed as a generational talent alongside Andrew Wiggins, is trying to get back on his feet as an effective big man, after injuries marred his last two seasons in Milwaukee. Justin Holiday has found his niche after bouncing around five different teams, including the Knicks, before re-settling with the Bulls as a member of their starting five. Cameron Payne is seeing the most consistent game action for the first time since his rookie season in Oklahoma City. Apart from them, the Bulls’ two 2018 first-round draftees in Wendell Carter Jr. (7th overall/Duke) and Chandler Hutchison (22nd overall/Boise State) are marking their marks.

Statistically, both the Knicks and Bulls are in the bottom half of the NBA in a variety of categories, and aren’t too far apart from each other in the rankings. They post similar numbers.

Offensively, the Bulls average 107.2 points per game (23rd in NBA). The Knicks aren’t too far behind them, tied with Cleveland for 25th at 106.1 points. They operate at similar tempos, slower than a majority of the league. The Bulls have the sixth-lowest pace in the NBA, with the Knicks only two spots behind them. The Bulls offensive efficiency rating is listed at 106.5 (20th in NBA), while the Knicks are just a few decimal points behind them at 106.1 (22nd in NBA).

Defensively, the Knicks have a slight edge on the Bulls. While the 5.4-point difference between the two teams’ average points given up to opponents isn’t exactly an overwhelming difference (Knicks’ 109.6 vs. the Bulls 115.0), the Knicks are ranked 16th in defensive efficiency rating, while the Bulls enter next-to-last at 29th. Despite the fact that Chicago has given up a lower percentage of shots (45.5 percent) than the Knicks (47.6 percent), when factoring other aspects like generating steals and rebounding numbers–two areas that Chicago has particularly struggled in, New York is able outperform Chicago on this end of the court.

Carter Jr. vs. Lobinson

Let’s get back to the rookies. First-year players Carter and New York’s Mitchell Robinson could be an intriguing frontcourt matchup.

Carter had considerable hype entering the 2018 draft, and so far, he’s done a lot of what he used to do at Duke—an imposing rim protector, glass cleaner, and athletic forward who can rise up and score when needed. Carter is averaging 11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a team-high 1.9 blocks per game.

Robinson was an enigma going into the draft. After dazzling as a five-star prospect in high school, showing great potential as a McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic player, he decided to drop out of college to work out privately. Unlike Carter, he wasn’t a lottery pick and fell to the Knicks at 36th. He’s proven to be a gem ever since.

So far this season, Robinson has played in eight games—starting five of them. He’s logged 6.0 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. Robinson leads the Knicks with a 63.3 shooting percentage.

It’s safe to say both fanbases see the future in their respective big men. Carter was listed as a power forward in the draft, but plays most of the minutes at the 5. It’ll be fun to see these two square off for the first time since high school.

Injury Watch

Kevin Knox is expected to possibly return for Monday night’s game. He had been out with an ankle sprain from the Celtics game back on Oct. 20.

While he returns, Tim Hardaway Jr. (back) is questionable vs. the Bulls. He was in and out during the loss to the Wizards.

Courtney Lee remains out with a neck injury, there is still no timetable for his return.

For Chicago, Bobby Portis and Kris Dunn are nursing MCL sprains. Lauri Markkanen is also sidelined due to an elbow injury. Paul Zipser and Denzel Valentine are out indefinitely with ankle injuries.

UPDATE

Kevin Knox is back tonight for the Knicks. Additionally, Allonzo Trier will crack the starting lineup with Tim Hardaway Jr. ailing from yesterday’s back injury.