And So This Is Christmas
But with all respects to John Lennon, war is not over, at least for the Knicks and Bulls. This is a rivalry that heated up in the mid-90s. Heck it went nuclear. Between 1989 and 1996, these two teams ended each others season 6 of 8 times. During this time, New York was Chicago’s toughest adversary.
1989 - Bulls 4-2 - Second Round 1991 - Bulls 3-0 - First Round 1992 - Bulls 4-3 - Second Round 1993 - Bulls 4-2 - Third Round 1994 - Knicks 4-3 - Second Round 1996 - Bulls 4-1 - Second Round
Granted this match-up doesn’t hold the same gravitas as it once was, but it’s no longer the yawn fest it recently has been. Currently Chicago and New York hold the third and fifth positions respectively in the Eastern Conference. Hence there is a jostling to be the best of the second tier teams after Boston, Miami, and Orlando. Winning this battle is important, because it’s the difference between a first round sweep and a fighting chance at the second round.
The teams are similar in some respects. Both feature strong play from the PG and C positions, and both play at a fast tempo. In fact they play at exactly the same pace, 96.6 poss/g, which is good enough for second in the league. However they differ with respect to how they accomplish their goals. Chicago is 19th on offense and 9th on defense, while New York is 6th on offense and 22nd on defense. Chicago has the league’s best defensive rebounding team, an area the Knicks are below average (21st). On the other hand the Bulls turn the ball over too often (25th), which is New York’s only defensive strength (tied for 13th). The pace should be vacillating, but don’t expect the Knicks to walk over the Bulls defense.
Some notes from ESPN’s Stats and Information:
* Christmas Day is the anniversary of Bernard King setting the Knicks franchise record with 60 points against the Nets (1984). But, the Knicks lost the game 120-114. Bernard King’s performance in 1984 still stands as the single-game scoring mark to beat on Christmas Day.
Points 12/25/84 Bernard King, NY 60 vs NJ 12/25/61 Wilt Chamberlain, PHI 59 at NY 12/25/66 Rick Barry, SF 50 at CIN 12/25/63 Jerry West, LAL 47 at NY 12/25/02 Tracy McGrady, ORL 46 vs DET
*The Knicks have already beaten the Bulls once this season. The Knicks went into the United Center and beat the Bulls 120-112 behind a career-high 30 points (off the bench) from Toney Douglas and 20 points and 10 assists from Raymond Felton. New York had 70 points at the half (and led by 18).
*The return of Carlos Boozer has made all the difference to the Bulls, who have finally found a solid low-post scorer. Since Boozer’s first game, he has 128 points in the paint, one of the top marks in the NBA.
Most Points in the Paint Since Dec. 1, 2010 Points in Paint Amar'e Stoudemire, NY 180 Blake Griffin, LAC 172 Zach Randolph, MEM 146 Dwyane Wade, MIA 146 LaMarcus Aldridge, POR 140 Russell Westbrook, OKC 134 Dwight Howard, ORL 130 Luis Scola, HOU 130 Carlos Boozer, CHI 128 Kevin Love, MIN 128 Tony Parker, SA 128
*Joakim Noah had surgery on his right thumb on Dec. 16. He is expected to be out 8-10 weeks, according to media reports. The Bulls will especially miss his rebounding.
*Derrick Rose is averaging 8.4 assists per game this season, ranking eighth in the NBA. Rose is also averaging 24.3 points per game, ranking seventh in the NBA. This feat is unremarkable in terms of NBA history. It has been done many times in the last five years alone. But it would be a milestone in Bulls history. Michael Jordan is the only Bulls player in franchise history to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists (1988-89).
*The Knicks have played a very easy schedule thus far. The combined win percentage of their opponents is only .433. Only the Lakers (.403) have played an easier schedule to this point.
*Many people think that Amar’e Stoudemire is the front-runner for the MVP award this season. Not even Patrick Ewing finished in the top 3 in MVP voting.
Top 3 Finishes by Knicks in MVP Award Voting Finish 1983-84 Bernard King 2 1969-70 Willis Reed 1 1968-69 Willis Reed 2 (award started in 1955-56)
*Amar’e Stoudemire has made 143 field goals this season inside of five feet. Stoudemire had made 145 field goals this season outside of five feet.