Time: 8:00 PM
Opponent: Chicago Bulls
After two consecutive beatdowns on two consecutive nights, what looks like a close matchup could actually be another blowout in waiting. I have absolutely no clue what the Knicks will look like in this game. Nobody has any clue. Even the Knicks don't have a damn clue. It's homecoming for Rose and Noah, and there's revenge game potential across both rosters — it might be a good idea to mentally prepare for the prospect of Jerian Grant hitting 7 straight treys as he flips off Phil Jackson.
The Bulls have started hot, but preseason expectations were low for a reason -- their roster makes little sense, and they are loaded with redundant players. Chicago's starting lineup features exactly one player who can reliably hit threes (Jimmy Butler), but they are somehow 3rd in offensive rating through four games.
That makes no sense at all, and it won't continue. We'll have to hope the Knicks are pulling the same trick, except backwards. Otherwise, our feeble minds will eventually realize that the Knicks have become God's most creative way of punishing sinners. A farce designed to bring out the inner insanity of those who reside in New York. I assume New York leads the United States in total sinning per square mile, and he’s clearly left the Cubs. There’s no alternative explanation. There's no way out. Repent.
Anyway, the Bulls have made it very clear how they want to play. Their starters will grind out possessions and focus on the glass with eternally scorned lover Robin Lopez (5 teams in 9 seasons) and eternal annoyance Taj Gibson. The Bulls are currently 1st in offensive rebound rate and total rebounding rate. Their offensive spacing will be atrocious, and they don't particularly care.
Unfortunately, the Knicks are currently 29th in defensive rebound percentage. That, of course, is bad. Joakim Noah will have his hands full with Lopez after a genuinely terrible rebounding performance against Houston. Kristaps Porzingis will need to contain Taj Gibson after the worst game of his career. I doubt the Knicks end up in the bottom 5 for total rebounding for the season, but the glass will probably present an issue in Chicago.
On the perimeter, it's going to be difficult to match up. Presumably, Rose will defend Rajon "Franklin" Rondo in a matchup that will likely be a wash, and Courtney Lee will probably have trouble containing Dwyane "Quagmire" Wade. That leaves Carmelo to guard Jimmy "Tiki Mask" Butler, and that's not going to go very well.
The Knicks will generate mismatches of their own, assuming they actually make it to the game this time around. Rondo and Wade are pretty washed on defense, and Robin Lopez might as well change his name to Benjamin Moore with the way this dude loves the paint. This can be exploited, especially in transition, where Lopez' gait is best compared to that of a rusted out Iron Giant. Lineups with KP at the 5 can provide some high variance outcomes, which might be a good thing -- KP will get eaten alive on the glass, but he'll basically be able to do whatever he wants on offense. Think back to last year's Kings game, where DeMarcus Cousins drained uncontested threes while Lopez stood in the paint crying like an infant. With a couple of lucky bounces on the defensive boards, the Knicks could theoretically close a ten point gap very quickly.
That should be a "BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY" option, but the more I think about it, the less I like this matchup. Chicago's bench has been stellar, with Doug McDermott making his case for most improved player. Some of that is likely fool's gold -- their bench has excelled playing at a high pace, and most of Chicago's opponents have been coming off back to backs -- but considering the state of the Knicks bench, it presents a problem.
With all that in mind, there is a gameplan here to beat Chicago. They've been extremely turnover prone as a team; Rajon Rondo cares wayyyyyy more about triple doubles and general stat padding than he does about turnovers, so he'll regularly make insane passes in transition that would make Jason "White Chocolate" Williams blush. Most of those passes will fail miserably, but he'll catch himself on SportsCenter later for the one that actually worked, so he's set. With turnovers come transition opportunities, where the Bulls will struggle. They've got a lot of lazy vets and immobile big men, a potentially hilarious combination.
Defense and bench performance will be key for the Knicks. Which is not good. Defensive stops generate transition opportunities, but asking for defense is apparently asking a lot, as the Knicks are currently 30th (!!!!) in defensive rating. The Knicks will need Lance Thomas and Justin Holiday to step up on defense, as Chicago likes to stagger Dwyane Wade with the second unit. The bench units will collectively need to move the ball; Chicago's backups defend a lot like Jose Calderon.
Prediction: Lance Thomas finally gets his offense going and finishes with the best plus minus on the team, Joakim Noah scores more than five points (this is apparently quite bold), and the Knicks force seven turnovers from Rajon Rondo to pair with 20 transition points.
Knicks win, 102-99. After looking at the November schedule, I'm pretty sure this prediction is just wishful thinking.