The 51-26 New York Knicks come to the Second City tonight riding high. They’ve won 13 straight games, and Carmelo Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career heading into the playoffs.
Melo’s numbers in April are simply ridiculous. In five April contests so far Anthony is averaging 40.6 ppg and 8.2 rpg while shooting 61.1% from the field and 58.6% from three. He is the first Knick since Bernard King in the 1984-85 season to score at least 35 points in five straight games. In addition, he’s overtaken Kevin Durant as the NBA’s scoring leader, 28.6 ppg to 28.3 ppg.
On Tuesday night Anthony had 36 points, 8 boards and 6 dimes to lead New York to a 120-99 demolition of the Wizards at MSG. With the W, the Knicks clinched the Atlantic Division title for the first time since 1994.
The 42-35 Bulls, on the other hand, have been slumping of late with a great part of this swoon due to a litany of injuries. They are under .500 since the beginning of February and are just 3-3 in their last six contests.
In a humbling 101-98 home loss on Tuesday to the Toronto Raptors, coach Tom Thibodeau was without Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose. On a positive note, 14th-year veteran SG Richard Hamilton returned on Tuesday after missing the last 19 games with a back issue, and 2nd -year SF Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 28 points in the defeat.
Tonight’s 48 represents the fourth and final regular season meeting between these playoff-bound squads. The Bulls bested the Knicks in each of the earlier matchups, the last of which was on January 11th in Manhattan. In the 108-101 Bulls victory, Luol Deng led the way with 33 points, while Chicago shot 57% from the field. Anthony put up 39 points, 8 boards and 5 dimes while NY shot only 41% from the field that night.
Both All-Star C Tyson Chandler and PF Kenyon Martin will be out of action tonight for NY.
Tune in to TNT at 8PM ET tonight to see if the Knicks and Melo can continue their red-hot play.
The City of Broad Shoulders comes to the Borough of Big Attitudes tonight in a battle of two playoff-bound teams.
The host Nets at 43-31 currently occupy the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of 5th seed Atlanta and 2.5 ahead of 6th seed Chicago.
Both of these squads head into tonight’s 48 with significant players banged up. Starting Brooklyn off-guard Joe Johnson has missed the last five games with a combo of left heel / right quad issues, and starting SF Gerald Wallace missed last night’s game with a sore foot. Both players will be game time decisions.
PG Derrick Rose, C Joakim Noah, SG Richard Hamilton and G Marco Belinelli are already sidelined with various injuries, and coach Tom Thibodeau may have lost Taj Gibson for a while as well in Tuesday’s loss at Washington. Carlos Boozer led the Bulls in the 90-86 D.C. defeat, putting up 19 points, 12 boards and 5 assists.
Tonight’s game marks the return of the Nets to Brooklyn after an eight-game road trip in which they went 5-3, including a 113-95 shellacking of Cleveland last night that set a franchise record for road wins.
Second-year SG Marshon Brooks led coach P.J. Carlesimo’s guys with a career-high 27 points on 12 of 16 shooting to go along with 7 dimes and 4 boards. Deron Williams chipped in with 24 points and 8 assists.
This will be the fourth and final time these two teams play in the regular season. So far, the home team has come away victorious in the previous three games including the Bulls’ win in Chi-town on March 2nd.
In that game, Boozer and Noah combined for 41 points, 18 boards, 8 assists, 7 steals and 5 blocks to help lead the Bulls to a 96-85 final.
Chicago has just 9 games left in the regular season, and a W tonight would prove huge in their attempt to take over the 4th seed and secure home court in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Starting this evening Brooklyn has 5 home games and 3 away games left and with the 3rd seed Pacers a healthy 4.5 games in front of them, it’s all about defending their current position.
Tune in to TNT at 7PM ET to watch the Bulls and Nets contend for postseason positioning.