The Knicks (17-16) face the Chicago Bulls (11-22) Wednesday night, looking to bounce back from an entertaining but disappointing Christmas day 105-98 loss to Philadelphia at the Garden.
The Knicks have lost two straight games defined by untimely miscues, and have dropped three out of their past four contests overall. The Bulls have surprisingly won eight of 10, most recently a 115-106 victory in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Chicago is 1-4 in the second leg of back-to-backs this season, and 7-8 at home. The Knicks, meanwhile, are an abysmal 2-10 on the road, and play 16 of their next 20 away from the friendly confines of the Garden—a stretch that could determine whether the Knicks can hang in the playoff race.
Here are some other things to look for ahead of the matchup in Chicago:
The Bulls prevailed 104-102 in the first meeting between these teams on December 9 at the United Center, with a pair of Kris Dunn free throws in the final seconds making the difference. Kristaps Porzingis was the lone player to eclipse 20 points that night, and both teams shot under 30 percent from deep and turned the ball over 14 times apiece.
The recent improvement from Chicago has, ironically, been ignited by the play of Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, who were involved in a widely publicized scuffle in October. In the 10 games since Mirotic returned, he’s averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds with an elite eFG% of 61.2. Portis, meanwhile, is posting 13.6 points on 54 percent shooting over the past 10. Kris Dunn (13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists) has also played well, and should pose a challenge for the Knicks point guards. Jarrett Jack has struggled as of late, contributing just four points over the last two games.
KP has averaged 25.5 points since his 1-point dud vs. Boston on December 21 (the last Knicks victory). Enes Kanter is coming off a monster 31-point, 22-rebound performance vs. Philly, garnering an All-Star vote from Porzingis (although, so did Tim Hardaway Jr.). Chicago ranks fifth in basketball in defensive rebounds per game, so Kanter will need to provide his usual aggressiveness on the glass.
The Knicks defense has been firm, surrendering just 42.7 percent shooting over their past two games. But they haven’t held serve on the other end, converting a dismal 12-39 from distance over the minor losing streak. Chicago doesn’t necessarily shoot the lights out—they shoot 35 percent from deep, good for 25th in basketball—but they’ve shot slightly better in December since the return of Mirotic. Both teams sit middle of the pack (13th and 14th) in 3-point defense.
Lastly, the Knicks received some (relatively) good news on Wednesday regarding Hardaway Jr., who is shooting without a brace on his leg. Still, a return to action does not seem imminent. Jeff Hornacek’s squad has performed respectably (6-6) without their second-leading scorer, thanks in part due to the play of Michael Beasley, who has averaged 15.6 PPG since Tim went down.
The Knicks and Bulls will tip tonight at 8 P.M.