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Game Preview: Knicks at Bulls- 03/28/22

Knicks meet Bulls.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Damn, was Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau pissed in that post-game interview after the win in Miami. He took the press, and blogs like this to task for critiquing his rotations and decision making. He seemed to be making excuses for not playing the kids earlier in the season. With Randle out for a few games, along with Mitchell Robinson playing limited minutes, the three rookies (Jericho Sims, Miles McBride, and Quintin Grimes) Immanuel Quickly, and most importantly, Obi Toppin showed what they could do. The young group not only showed much promise, leading the team to back-to-back wins, but they also showed exactly the type of defensive moxie Thibs is always screaming about in terms of earning minutes.

So what’s the issue? Well, our beguiled coach has no excuse for why these young kids haven’t been playing sooner, especially once the dreams of the play-in tournament became dimmer. Most of all, it’s been his misuse of Toppin that has rubbed the fanbase the wrong way. The rope he has shown with Toppin when he misses a defensive rotation or is outrebounded isn't shown to nearly the same degree with starting power forward Julius Randle. If anything, Thibodeau seems to have a never-ending rope with the disgruntled forward, allowing Randle to make mistake after mistake in late-game situations, with substitutions out of the question.

All we are asking for is consistency. The Knicks are not good enough to need Randle playing every second of every game, through mistakes. Not sitting him when he commits crucial errors sends the wrong message to your fanbase and to the other players on the roster. Yea, we’re an annoying bunch. And it seems everyone has a Knicks-related blog nowadays, but dammit all we want is for Toppin and Randle to be treated equally, and given the same chance when the time comes.

While Leon Rose and Co. played it safe this past summer by adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier in free agency, the Chicago Bulls went all in. They started off as the hottest team in the league behind DeMar DeRozan's resurgence. Since the All-Star break, the Bulls have battled injuries and fatigue, falling to fifth in the East. There is still time for them to recoup home-court advantage, and games like this, against the inconsistent Knicks, are pivotal towards doing so.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu’s selection with the 38th pick in the 2022 draft showed the Bulls’ front office has not only a high IQ is finding talent in free agency, but the draft as well. Dosunmu is a fiery competition and plays elite defense, playing taller than his listed 6’4. He’s also shown to have a higher ceiling, netting nearly 9 ppg as a rookie in 27 minutes, with the eye test showing he might have another level down the road when he is able to play off-ball when Lonzo Ball returns. He’s a strong, bullish guard who uses a quick first step and strong upper body to dig into the teeth of the defense for post opportunities.

Alex Caruso. The Bulls would much rather have Caruso off the bench — not because he doesn't possess the skillset to matchup against first-string players, but because he is so deadly as a secondary sparkplug. Unfortunately, the Bulls have been ravaged by injuries across the roster, causing DeRozen and LaVine to move down positions in the starting five, and Caruso to be moved up into the starting lineup. Caruso is an adept defender and excellent in the passing lanes, nabbing steals, and applying pressure as a help defender.

Zach LaVine. LaVine has given zero indication he will leave Chicago this summer as a free agent. But it remains at the top of the list for available game-changing players. He’s a sneaky good perimeter shooter at a career 39%. He also stands as the most athletic perimeter player in the league. He is the complete package as a fierce competitor and late-game shot-maker. The Knicks would love to have an athlete like LaVine but will have a limited chance at signing him, as he has become the centerpiece for this Bulls’ resurgence.

DeMar DeRozan. I was wrong. I’ll be the first to admit, I did not see DeRozan returning to All-Star form, much less earn MVP consideration. I thought his dominant days in Toronto were behind him. But his resurgence in Chicago has been wonderful to see for those who remember his heartbreaking playoff losses to LeBron James over the last decade. DeRozan loves to cook the Knicks, and will face Barrett in an excellent perimeter matchup.

Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is the model of consistency The Belgian big man is a consistent 20 and 10 every night, as he has been for the last decade. With the Bulls, he no longer has to carry the offensive load as the focal point. He is the anchor on both sides of the ball and is still a tough matchup at 31-years-old. Vucevic will be a handful for Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims, who both give up strength and savvy in the post-matchup. With Vucevic and DeRozen both in their thirties, the Bulls window is now. This team is fighting for Eastern Conference seeding and wants to move up to secure homecourt advantage.

PREDICTION

The Knicks have been unpredictable since the All-Star break. they should be tanking, to increase their odds in the Lottery but this group of youngsters has over-achieved lately with wild wins against the Heat and Hornets. The Bulls are looking to regain home-court advantage and at home, they will prove to be too much. Even with Randle back in the lineup. Bulls by 10 or less.