Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Knicks

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Chicago Bulls and reigning league MVP 4th-year point guard Derrick Rose arrive on the island of Manhattan to take on the New York Knicks tonight at Madison Square Garden. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s guys are 18-6 and sit atop the Eastern Conference even after losing in the City of Brotherly Love last night to the exciting, upstart Philadelphia 76ers 98-82. On the other side, after dropping 9 of their last 11 contests, coach Mike D’Antoni’s squad crushed the Detroit Pistons in Manhattan on Tuesday night 113-86. The up and down Knicks currently sit in 10th place in the East at 8-13.

Knick scorer extraordinaire 9th-year forward Carmelo Anthony led the team with 25 points in the much needed win after sitting out New York’s previous two games with nagging ankle, wrist and thumb injuries. All-Star Anthony couldn’t have returned at a better time with the Knicks kicking off their only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the compacted season against the imposing, but recently injury-depleted Bulls. Tonight’s 48-minute tussle will be Chicago’s fourth of nine straight games away from the United Center. So far they are 1-2 on this February road sojourn. New Bull 13th-year shooting guard Richard Hamilton won’t play tonight due to thigh and groin issues. However, 8th-year forward Luol Deng should be available
after a six-game absence due to a torn ligament in his wrist.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesIf the former Dukie Deng is back at the 3 alongside center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer, also a Duke alum, the frontline matchup at the Mecca of Hoops will be top-notch considering the 3-4-5 starting for the Gothamites. Anthony, along with 10th-year, 6X All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire and 11th-year center Tyson Chandler, who spent the first five seasons of his career with Chicago, are considered by many haranguers of the hardwood to be the best frontline in the NBA today.

The last time Chicago lost two in a row in the regular season was almost a full calendar year ago on February 5th and 7th, 2011. In addition, MVP Rose has put up great numbers against the Knicks in their last six meetings: 26.2 ppg to go along with a 54.1 FG%. And veteran Boozer seems to love playing in the white-hot spotlight of West 33rd street NYC as well. In his last six trips to MSG he has averaged 22.5 ppg and 15.8 rpg.

Live coverage of Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks tips off at 8:00 PM ET on TNT following the announcement of the 2012 All-Star starting lineups.

Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Grizzlies

Gasol-Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.

Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.

Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty ImagesNew York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.

Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.

Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.

Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.

Fratello Telestrator

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Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Knicks

New York City is the unofficial capitol of the basketball world and Madison Square Garden in the heart of Midtown Manhattan is the hoops-headquarters. Tonight ‘the most famous arena in the world’ will be on fire for a highly charged matchup featuring two teams that are on the upswing and hoping to return to their glory days.

The Chicago Bulls are hands-down the hottest team in the NBA right now. And they come to New York with a chance to finish the 2010-2011 NBA season with the best record in the entire 30-team league. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau has already led the Bulls to the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 60-20 with two games remaining on the schedule.

After finishing 41-41 last year and losing in the first round to the then LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1, this team has demonstrated dramatic improvement through defense and a general group maturation. Throw in veteran PF / first-year Chicagoan Carlos Boozer, a deep and reliable bench, and a soon-to-be-named youngest-ever league MVP at the 1-guard, and you have the makings of a team capable of winning title number 7 for the Chicago-land faithful. Title 6 came 13 years ago in 1998, completing the Jordan Bulls second three-peat.

The Rose Bulls are currently on a seven game winning streak and have won 19 of their previous 21 contests. They are second in the league in team defense, allowing a lock-down 91.3 points against. And when third-year, do-everything PG Derrick Rose and teammates win, they usually do it rather convincingly as they lead the league in point-differential at +7.3.

The Knickerbockers of New York at 42-38 occupy the East’s sixth seed heading into a first round playoff series with their Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics. On their own 7-game consecutive victorious run, coach Mike D’Antoni has the new-look-Carmelo-finally-in-Gotham Knicks playing winning, up-tempo basketball. They have a dynamic offense led by the eighth-year 6’8” F Anthony’s 25.6 ppg (3rd in the NBA) and ninth-year 6’10” C/F Amaré Stoudemire’s 25.4 ppg (5th in the NBA). The Knicks rank second in the NBA in team offense at 106.8 ppg and appear to be gelling after some transitional difficulties post-Melo acquisition from Denver in mid-February.

After finishing last season at 29-53, the guys in the Blue, Orange and Black have America’s biggest town buzzing for the first time in nearly a decade. In fact, the Knicks will finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. And this postseason will mark their first visit to the playoffs since a 39-43 Knick team got swept in the 2004 first round by their Hudson River rivals, the New Jersey Nets.

Tonight the MSG boys will attempt to complete a season series sweep of the Big Shoulder boys. Marv and I will be in the booth along with David Aldridge on the sidelines to bring you the Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

Fratello’s Fun Stats

As of today, there are two sets of teammates who rank among the top 5 in NBA scoring for the 2010-2011 season: James & Wade in Miami and Anthony & Stoudemire in New York. If both dynamic duos finish in the top 5 at the end of 82 this April, it will be just the second time in NBA history that this has happened. So far the first and last such occurrence was when Warriors Johnston & Arizin and Hawks Selvy & Petit all finished the 1954-1955 regular season among the top 5 scoring leaders.

However, one set of teammates has ranked in the top 5 multiple times: Iverson & Anthony (2008 Nuggets); Bryant & O’Neal (2003 Lakers); Bryant & O’Neal (2001 Lakers); Vandeweghe & English (1984 Nuggets); Vandeweghe & English (1983 Nuggets); Hudson & Maravich (1973 Hawks); West & Baylor (1967 Lakers); West & Baylor (1965 Lakers); Robertson & Twyman (1961 Royals); Petit & Hagan (1960 Hawks); Petit & Hagan (1959 Hawks); Arizin & Johnston (1957 Warriors); Arizin & Johnston (1956 Warriors).