Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Knicks (12.27.17)
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls will go for their ninth win in 11 games when they return home to host the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at United Center.
Chicago (11-22) will play on short rest after outlasting the Milwaukee Bucks for a 115-106 win on Tuesday night. The victory marked the latest feel-good moment for the newly confident Bulls, who started the season 3-20.
Meanwhile, New York (17-16) needs a win to stay above .500. The Knicks have dropped back-to-back games by single digits but have won five of their past eight.
"I think we're ready," Knicks center Enes Kanter said to the New York Post. "I think we've got to set the tone early, especially the first game (of a three-game road trip) with the Bulls. We owe them one."
Kanter spoke in reference to the Bulls' 104-102 win over the Knicks on Dec. 9.
Forward Nikola Mirotic led Chicago with 19 points off the bench. Five other Bulls players scored in double digits, including guard Kris Dunn (17 points), forward Lauri Markkanen (15 points) and guard David Nwaba (15 points).
Forward Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks in their first game against Chicago, with 23 points on 10-of-25 shooting. The third-year star from Latvia is averaging a team-high 24.6 points this season.
Mirotic was not expected to serve a similar role for the Bulls, especially after he sustained facial fractures during a confrontation with teammate Bobby Portis in practice before the season. Yet the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter from the small European nation of Montenegro has scored in double digits in eight of 11 games this season.
After not speaking for weeks, Mirotic and Portis now trade high-fives on the court after good plays.
"We are playing aggressive," Mirotic told the Chicago Tribune when discussing his team's recent success. "It's all about the work. We already showed that we can win games while playing well. Now it's about being consistent."
The Knicks likely will play without guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who has a stress injury to his lower left leg and could be sidelined until January. Hardaway is averaging 17.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in his fifth season.
The Bulls continue to wait for the season debut of guard Zach LaVine, whom they acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves during the offseason as part of a trade for All-Star guard Jimmy Butler. LaVine averaged 13.7 points in his first three seasons in Minnesota and could join the resurgent Bulls in the coming month.
The Knicks have won six of their past eight games against the Bulls. They are 103-119 all-time against Chicago.
Chicago is 7-8 at home. New York is 2-10 on the road.
"I think on the road we just need to learn how to win," Kanter said to the Post. "It's really important. If we want to make the playoffs and go far in the playoffs, we need to learn how to win on the road and just stay together."
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