Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Bulls

New York Knicks v Oklahoma City ThunderThe 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.

Gameday Dish: Thunder vs. Knicks

New York Knicks v Detroit PistonsThe 44-16 Oklahoma City Thunder venture to midtown Manhattan tonight to take on the 37-21 Knicks. At first glance these two teams would seem to have little in common beyond their membership in Commissioner Stern’s club.

The Thunder were established when the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, while the Knicks are one of the oldest franchises in the league. OKC is one of the smallest markets in pro ball; New York City is the biggest market this side of London or Seoul. The Thunder are the fifth youngest squad in the league; the Knicks have the oldest roster. And Oklahoma City has the National Cowboy Museum, while Gotham City is inhabited by millions of city slickers.

However, both the Thunder and the Knicks currently sit second in their respective conferences and lead their divisions. Both have won five of their last six games and are looking to make it three in a row with a W tonight. OKC has the league’s top scorer in Kevin Durant (28.6), and the Knicks have the second best scorer in Carmelo Anthony (28.2).

TLos Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunderhe Knickerbockers played last night in Detroit and came away with an 87-77 victory despite committing a season-high 21 turnovers – a surprising stat given that New York averages a league-low 12.1 turnovers per game.

This sloppiness with the rock may have been attributed to the fact that many of the Knicks were pressing to make up for Anthony’s lost production since he was forced to miss the game with a right knee injury that will keep him sidelined again this evening. The Knicks were led by 6th man extraordinaire Amare Stoudemire, who scored 22 points and had 9 boards in 31 minutes off the bench. Over the last six games Stoudemire has been on fire, shooting 72.9% from the field.

The Thunder last played Tuesday at home against the Lakers. Unlike the Knicks, Oklahoma had a franchise-record two turnovers in the contest and tied the NBA record – quite a feat considering they are the second-worst offenders in the league. Behind PG Russell Westbrook’s 37 points, 10 boards, 5 dimes and 2 steals, OKC held off a late Laker rally and prevailed 122-105. Westbrook has averaged a team-best 32.2 ppg over the last 6 contests.

Tonight’s 48 will be the first of two matchups between these two sides this season. Tune in to TNT at 8PM ET to watch the Knicks defend their home court against the young, hungry Thunder and their 17.1 fast break points per game.

Gameday Dish: Lakers vs. Knicks

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers come to Madison Square Garden tonight for their only Manhattan visit this season.

While the Knicks are unexpectedly soaring, the Lakers are surprisingly sputtering.

A lot of colorful plot lines are swirling around this evening’s 48, but none bigger than the turmoil surrounding the 9-13 Lakers’ shocking start and accompanying sniping.

Coming in a close second is Mike D’Antoni’s return to the Garden, where he coached the Knicks from 2008 until March 14th, 2012 when he resigned after going 18-24 and clashing with Carmelo Anthony.

The embattled Laker coach’s guys suffered their worst loss of this early season on Tuesday night in Cleveland, 100-94, bringing LA to 4-8 since D’Antoni took over the reigns.

This third consecutive loss was especially surprising given that Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 42 points, and Dwight Howard corralled a season-high tying 20 boards to go with 19 points.

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
However, for the past five games the Lake Show has been without PF Pau Gasol due to tendinitis in his knees.

Superstar PG Steve Nash and his back-up Steve Blake are also injured and out.

The 16-5 host Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team in the league still undefeated at home.

New York last played on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, where they bested their outer-borough brethren 100-97.

Melo scored a season-high 45 points, and 39-year old 19th-year PG Jason Kidd hit a key tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

The Knicks have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and are scoring 102.6 ppg, 5th best in the league. They lead the NBA in 3-point attempts, averaging 29.4 per game.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 8:00 PM ET to watch two of the NBA’s most storied franchises do battle in the Mecca of basketball.

Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Knicks

The New York Knicks welcome their Atlantic Division rival the Boston Celtics to Madison Square Garden tonight. The Beanteamers, 36-25, are poised to clinch their fifth straight Division Title while New York at 31-29 is fighting hard to stave off the Milwaukee Bucks for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.

These two longtime foes met in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs with the C’s dispatching the Knicks 4-love for the only sweep of the league’s eight first round series. This year these sides have met three times already with the Celts winning twice in Boston and the Knicks holding off the Green in Manhattan on Christmas Day, the NBA’s lockout shortened season’s opening day.

All three contests were extremely close. Twice the final differential was just 2 points, and the last time they met on March 4th in Boston coach Doc Rivers’ guys prevailed by 4 in OT. In that contest C’s PG Rajon Rondo had a triple-double for the ages: 18 points, 17 boards and 20 dimes.

The Celtics last played on Sunday against the woeful Bobcats in Charlotte. They won 94-82 playing without their Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Allen. After beating the Nets on Saturday night in Jersey, Doc Rivers decided to rest Garnett and Pierce against Charlotte and left them in NYC to await tonight’s important 48. Allen missed his 4th straight game with a sore ankle, but may be available tonight.

The Knickerbockers last played on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat on national television. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too much for the banged up Knicks and got the W, 93-85. In the loss Carmelo Anthony had 42 points, 9 boards and 5 dimes. With Amar’e Stoudemire out for his 11th straight game and Linsanity gone for the season, Melo has been carrying the scoring load, averaging 31.7 ppg in April.

Also of concern for coach Mike Woodson is C Tyson Chandler’s health. The probable Defensive Player of the Year hurt his knee in the thired quarter of Sunday’s game. He is expected to suit up tonight, but may be limited in his movement and on-court effectiveness.

New York will need Chandler and others to help on Rondo, who is playing like a man possessed lately. The 6th-year Kentucky Wildcat has dished for double digit dimes in 22 straight games. It’s the longest such streak in 20 seasons. He joins HOF’ers John Stockton and Magic Johnson as the only players with 10 assists in 20 straight games.

Tune in tonight at 8:00 PM ET to TNT to watch the Knicks and Celts battle for the final time this season.

Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Magic

The Orlando Magic have lost four games in a row and have fallen in the standings to 5th in the East at 32-22. Second leading scorer PF Ryan Anderson (sprained right ankle) has already been ruled out of tonight’s contest against the New York Knicks, and All-NBA C Dwight Howard (back spasms) and PG Jameer Nelson (sore left calf) will be game time decisions.

For the proverbial cherry on top of this bad news sundae, head coach Stan Van Gundy announced to news reporters today around noon that his sources within Magic management confirmed the speculation that the 3X reigning Defensive Player of the Year Howard wants Van Gundy fired.

Into this central Florida swirl of injury and uncertainty come the East’s current 8th-seed New York Knicks at 27-27. The Knicks know a little something about key players getting hurt and exiting coaches. Former NY head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned on March 14th as his squad was mired in a six game swoon and his players began shutting him out.

New head coach Mike Woodson has gone 9-3 since he took over, but the Knicks have dropped 2 of their last 3. They’ve also lost starting PG Jeremy Lin for the remainder of the year, and starting PF Amare Stoudemire will be out for at least another week with a bad back.

New York last played on Tuesday at Indiana where they were outscored 40-17 in the fourth quarter and lost 112-104. The Knicks only real go-to guy now is Carmelo Anthony, who drained a season-high 39 in the defeat. With the loss, Spike Lee’s guys are a weak 9-17 away from MSG. In addition, new starting lead guard Baron Davis is playing with a troublesome pulled left hamstring and appears to be ailing and ineffectual.

Orlando last played and lost on Tuesday in Detroit, 102-95. With no Howard, no Nelson and no Anderson, the Magic didn’t have enough to best the 19-33 Pistons. In fact, Orlando allowed the Motor City ballers to shoot 56.6% from the field. It was an opponent best against the Magic this compacted season. The one good piece of news for O-Town was replacement C Glen Davis scoring a career-high 31 points.

Tied up at one win apiece in the season series, tonight’s 48 will be the third and final time these two sides square off in the regular 66. Both teams need a ‘W’ to get back on track and to keep from unraveling down the backstretch. Orlando has to stop their skid, and New York must maintain their perilous position in the Eastern Conference standings to snag the last playoff spot.

Tune in to TNT at 7:00 PM ET to see who will rise to the occasion as this grinding season nears completion.