On Thursday, the Knicks travel to Chicago, hell-bent to deliver the Bulls their first loss of the season. What’s more, a win would spoil “Joakim Noah Night” at the United Center. My heart flutters at the thought. Buckle up for good one, Knicks fans.
WHEN LAST THEY MET
New York beat Chicago 113-94 when they squared off in April 28, 2021. Recent addition Nikola Vučević led the Bulls with 26 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 assists. Coby White started at PG for the Bulls and went 12/2/9 with a -23.
WHAT’S CHANGED IN CHICAGO?
Couple things. Chicago acquired Lonzo Ball , a point guard who’d been desired by many Knicks fans. They signed DeMar DeRozan, another guy some Knicks fans wanted. Then Chicago grabbed PG Alex Caruso, thus sending Coby White further down the pine. To their frontcourt rotation, GM Marc Eversley added forwards Stanley Johnson and Alize Johnson, and centers Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic.
Last year’s Bulls stank. After this summer’s overhaul, All-Star Zach LaVine (SG) should be a happier camper. Already, his new team has started 4-0. That’s the first four win streak of his professional career.
The Knicks are fresh off a convincing 112-99 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. On Monday, the Bulls won a tight game in Toronto, 111-108.
Chicago is a tough opponent. “Those guys are playing very, very well,” said Kemba Walker about the match-up. “It’s gonna be a dog fight, for sure.”
Ball is a crisp passer and great initiator of fast breaks. However, he leaves something to be desired when running the half-court offense. His eFG% has improved every year (currently 59%), and this season he’s shooting 43% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game. You have to admire his work ethic.
Walker played a great game against Philly’s Tyrese Maxey. Lonzo presents a bigger challenge. Derrick Rose will likely have better success against Ball. Surely, he’ll be vibing for his former teammate Noah.
Olympian Zach LaVine is another player who shows improvement each year and is currently shooting a career high 44% from deep. He’s inclined to take a bevy of shots (6-18 night against the Pistons and 7-16 against the Raptors). LaVine is listed as day-to-day with a ligament tear in his non-shooting thumb, but intends to play.
In Tuesday’s win, Knick SG Evan Fournier shot well (18 points, 6-10 FG, 4-6 3PT), and his double-team support helped to ruin Joel Embiid’s night. To lock down LaVine, Evan will need to maintain that intensity.
Twelve-year veteran, SF DeRozan can create his own shot or pass with the best of them. He’s a sleek mid-range shooter, but less so from deep (career 28%). Look for RJ Barrett to try to keep DD far away from the basket.
Starting PF, 20-year old Patrick Williams is a wild stallion. He’ll flash some stunning skill and then make a bonehead play. Behind him on the depth chart is Derrick Jones, Jr (6’6” 210 lbs). Look for Julius Randle and back-up Obi Toppin to have the advantage.
Last season, while still in Orlando, Vučević (6’11”, 260 lbs) outplayed Mitchell Robinson. This year’s Mitch has an edge in height and weight and will be harder to manhandle.
And, yes, every time Vooch misses a shot, I do yell “Swiss Miss!” He’s from Switzerland, dig?
Also off the bench for Chicago, look for Caruso (the hardest working headband in sports), Javonte Green, Alize Johnson, and Tony Bradley. Coby White is out indefinitely with a shoulder issue.
Wherefore art thou Nerlens Noel? Chicago lacks height and having Noel in the mix would add to New York’s advantage. Last I heard, there’s still knee soreness.
To win, the Knicks must continue the physical play that beat the Sixers. Philly coach Doc Rivers explained it: “They got into our bodies...The pressure took us out of the game.” Expect Coach Thibodeau to have his squad ready for a brawl.
Clearly, Thibs still has great affection for Joakim Noah:
"I loved him. I fought with him. I loved him. I fought with him. And he's a dear friend now"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) October 27, 2021
Tom Thibodeau reflects on his time coaching Joakim Noah (the Knicks will be in Chicago on Thursday when the Bulls will host Joakim Noah night) pic.twitter.com/JPTaQcFxzq
The Knicks will spoil Jo’s festivities in a close one with lots of three-pointers.
Chicago. Thursday, 8 pm. Let’s go Knickerbockers!