The Knicks sit just a half game up on the 9th place Milwaukee Bucks. A loss tomorrow would place them in a tie for 8th with just 10 games remaining in this lockout shortened season. Including tomorrow’s game, 6 of the Knicks last 11 opponents currently boast a record of .500 or better. In their last 11 games, New York will play Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, the Clippers and Chicago twice. It is now an 11 game season and every game is huge for the Knicks.
The 43-13 Chicago Bulls boast the best record in basketball. They have played their last 12 games without the reigning MVP, point guard Derrick Rose. In those games, the Bulls are 8-4. Tomorrow, Rose will make his return from injury which doesn’t bode well for the Jeremy Lin-less Knicks. New York has been playing well themselves, 7-3 record over their past 10, but Rose could cause huge problems for the ‘Bockers tomorrow. The Knicks must find a way to overcome Rose’s return, as tomorrow is a huge game for the men from New York.
Here’s what to watch for:
- How do the Knicks defend Rose? I’d have to think Woodson would be insane to experiment with Baron Davis checking Rose, which is why I expect to see a lot of Iman Shumpert tomorrow. While Shumpert isn’t great guarding point guards, he’s the best option the Knicks have and I think they’ve got to go with him. Toney Douglas should also get a few minutes guarding the reigning MVP. Douglas played well against Rose last season and while Rose has progressed and Douglas has regressed since then, I think Douglas is a more attractive option on defense than Davis or Bibby. If at any point Bibby is guarding Rose, I’ll probably gauge out both of my eyeballs so I don’t have to watch. I think Shumpert is the guy that has to step up defensively tomorrow.
- Jeffriesanity? As of right now, it is a maybe as to whether or not Jeffries will play tomorrow. If he doesn’t, the Knicks are in big trouble. While Carmelo Anthony has the advantage offensively playing power forward, he gives the Knicks a disadvantage on the boards. In their last meeting, the Bulls pulled down 22 offensive rebounds. If that happens tomorrow, the Knicks are going to lose by 40. They have to find a way to keep Taj Gibson and the Bulls off the offensive glass. Jared Jeffries will give the Knicks a chance to do that. If he doesn’t play, then the Knicks have a chance to get destroyed on the boards.
- Tyson Chandler versus Joakim Noah. One of the bigger match ups in the game tomorrow will be the battle of centers down in the paint. Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah are two of the better centers in the game today and their impacts will greatly determine the outcome of the game. For the Knicks, Chandler will have to control the glass. His goal should be to grab about 10-15 rebounds and score about 10 points. More importantly, he has to make sure that Noah doesn’t wreak havoc on the glass. I sound like a broken record, but the Knicks must control the boards tomorrow. Without Lin and Stoudemire, the Knicks are already at a huge disadvantage. They cannot allow Chicago to get second chance points. Tyson Chandler will be a huge part of the Knicks success/failure tomorrow. If he dominates Noah and controls the glass, the Knicks will have a good shot to win. If Chandler disappears and is dominated, the Knicks will be dominated.
- The Knicks bench must step up offensively. Points will be at a premium tomorrow against the vaunted Bulls defense. New York’s starters do not have the ability to carry all the scoring. JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson have to be key contributors in tomorrow’s game. I don’t have to talk about Smith, you know the story on him. Either he’s on fire or he’s Dr. Freeze. Shumpert is an extremely streaky shooter. We’ve seen recent 25 point games from him, as well as recent 3/12 shooting games. Shumpert will have his hands full defensively guarding Derrick Rose, but he has to find a way to mix some offensive efficiency into his game tomorrow. Josh Harrellson should play a large role in tomorrow’s matchup. Even if Jeffries is able to play, I don’t imagine he’ll play more than 12 minutes. Harrellson has to be scrappy tomorrow. He doesn’t necessarily have to score, but he needs to wreck some havoc on the offensive glass. If Harrellson can get 2-3 put-backs in the game, that would be huge for the Knicks. The Knicks bench has to score points tomorrow. If they don’t, I don’t see how the Knicks can win the game. Chicago is too good, both offensively and defensively, for the Knicks to win without Melo scoring. They need the bench to chip in with efficient offense or else they will lose.
- Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Melo has to dominate. Do I need to say it more? In order for the Knicks to win, Carmelo Anthony will have to efficiently score the basketball tomorrow. Luol Deng is a great defender, but the Knicks traded for Anthony for a reason. Games like this are why you trade 4 starters for a Carmelo Anthony. Against great teams, great players play great and that is what Melo must do tomorrow. The Knicks are in dire straits without Lin and Stoudemire. Tomorrow is a huge game. If Anthony can score 35-40 points efficiently and dominate in the 4th quarter, the Knicks will have a good shot to win. Chicago is ranked 3rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency and you know they’ll have a few wrinkles in the game plan to deal with Anthony. This is a game in which Anthony can really fold. They’ll batter him, double team him and contest his shots. Rarely will he get an open look in the game. This is a potential statement game for Anthony. Lets see how he does.