GAME NIGHT FROM MSG in NYC: Bulls (14-27, 5-16 on the road) at New York (19-21, 15-7 at home).
TV: NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Neil Funk and Stacey King: 6:30 CT tipoff.
RADIO: WLS 890 AM: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington and Steve Kashul: 6PM CT. Pre.
LEADING SCORERS: Bulls: Mirotic: 17 ppg. New York: Porzingis: 23 ppg.
LEADING REBOUNDERS: Bulls: Markkanen and Mirotic each with 7. New York: Kanter: 10.
LEADING ASSISTS: Bulls: Dunn: 6. New York: Jack: 6.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Both in Chicago.
December 9th: Bulls 104 NY 102. Coming off a win the night before in Charlotte, the Bulls jumped on NY then hung on for a 104-102 win. Kris Dunn made two free throws with 2.9 seconds left. Kristaps Porzingis missed an open three that would have won the game for NY at the buzzer.
December 27th: Bulls: 92 NY 87. The Bulls trailed by as many as 15 in the first half in another second game of a back-to-back vs NY, but managed to rally led by Kriss Dunn’s 17 points and clutch free throws with seconds left.
Bulls vs. Knicks: Dunn: 17ppg, 6 reb, and 7 assists. Markkanen: 13ppg and 5 reb. Mirotic 11ppg, 5 reb, and 57% fg. Bulls avg. 98ppg vs NY. Shooting: 45%, 3-point range: 32%.
Knicks vs. Bulls: Porzingis 23ppg, and 5 reb. Lee: 15ppg. Knicks avg. 94ppg vs. Bulls. Shooting: 44%, and only 23% from 3-point range. NY attempts just 11 FTA vs Bulls in first two games of the series.
CCI 24 SECONDS COMMENTARY: Believe it or not, this is New York’s 23rd home game of the season. Why, you ask? Madison Square Garden is booked with the Grammy's, and two postseason college basketball tournaments (Big Ten and Big East). It’s imperative for NY to win home games against opponents they feel they can beat. However, the Bulls own a 2-0 series lead with both wins coming on second games of back-to-backs against a rested Knicks club. If NY expects to make the playoffs, they need to win road games the second half of the season. One plus: teams, as we know, think ahead to 2018-19, so by the time New York plays “meaningful games” from a Knicks perspective, it may not be the same mindset for the opposition.
Kristaps Porzingis (14th in the NBA in scoring 23 ppg) is enjoying a fine year, although he needs to improve his rebounding. For a man 7-3 (tallest player in the NBA with Detroit’s Boban Marjanovic) he should be averaging more than six rebounds per game. In the Knicks Sunday road win in Dallas, he was physically and verbally challenged by Wes Matthews, who called Porzingis "soft" and "sweet." Porzingis is NOT soft. He is a big-time talent, and with good health will play fifteen years in the NBA.
The Bulls are giving up 108 ppg on the season, but of late, allowing opponents to score on an average of over 120 points the past five games. New York averages 103 points per games, but averaging just 94 points against the Bulls in two meetings, so this is a test to see where the Bulls are truly at defensively against an opponent in their competitive zone.
ZACH ATTACK: The much anticipated return of Zach Lavine will take place Saturday vs. the Pistons on Zach Lavine Bobblehead Night. Looking forward to seeing him back on the floor, but I am preaching patience. Bulls Nation, let him do his thing, which includes turnovers, blown dunks, missed shots, etc. He hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in nearly a year but, everyone is thrilled with his work ethic and the professional relationships he’s developed within the Bulls organization. He’s a class act.
NBA NEWS AND NOTES
Wayne Ellington with a driving lay up with a second left, propelled the Heat past the Raptors in Toronto. Serge Ibaka and James Johnson were ejected for throwing punches. Coach Spo is doing an amazing job.
CJ McCollum is one of the best kept secrets in the NBA. He scored 27 points, as the Blazers ripped the Thunder in OKC. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the Thunder.
Lonzo Ball with 11 points and 11 assists, leading the Lakers past the Kings. After losing nine straight, LA has won two in a row.
Dallas vs. Orlando in a, "somebody had to win game." Dallas your table is ready! Congratulations!
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the St. John’s vs. Georgetown game at Madison Square Garden. I felt I was in a time machine, watching Patrick Ewing coach the Hoyas and Chris Mullin on the sideline for the Red Storm, and sitting next to my man Bill Wennington, who received a loud ovation when they showed him on the scoreboard. Georgetown prevailed in a close game, and I wish both programs the best. One day perhaps they can return to prominence and fill the Garden as it once did some thirty years ago. I’m guessing 7-9 thousand on hand.