Thursday Night Knicks-Bulls Preview

Network 2-0 in the NBA Wednesday with the Clippers and Lakers. Baseball 2-1 as Red Sox 9th inning collapse prevents 3-0 day.

RED HOT NEW YORK KNICKS HAVE WON A LUCKY 13 IN A ROW HEADING TO CHICAGO

Talk about peaking at the right time! The New York Knicks are back to playing fantastic basketball in the days leading up to the NBA playoffs. They now hold a lead of 2.5 games over Indiana for the #2 seed in the East with just five games to go (four left for the Pacers), and they are once again making people think they might have a chance in an Eastern Conference Championship series with Miami.

Sure, the defending champs are still prohibitive favorites. But, the Knicks DO match up well with the Heat, HAVE posted great results against the Heat this year, and DID just knock off Western power Oklahoma City on the road this past Sunday.

A month ago, it seemed like the Knicks had forgotten how to execute everything that had been working during their fantastic opening salvo in the first 30-35 games of the 2012-13 campaign. They stopped defending. They started turning the ball over recklessly. It looked like chemistry might have been becoming an issue. BOOM! 13 wins in a row, with a return of the spread-out three-point offense that's impossible for many teams to defend...coinciding with a return to sharp passing that gets the ball in the hands of the right guy in the right spot.

Thursday Night, the Knicks visit Chicago as they try to move toward sealing the deal on the #2 seed. Chicago is in a battle for playoff positioning themselves in the 4-5-6 spots with Brooklyn and Atlanta. Let's run Knicks/Bulls through our indicator stats to see how tonight might play out...and how those key metrics might influence the postseason that will be here before you know it.

WON-LOST RECORDS
New York: 51-26 (#2 in the East)
Chicago: 42-35 (#5 in the East)

Chicago has to be pleased with that record given that Derrick Rose has been unable to play this season. Though, it has to be said that the East is so horrible that just showing up and trying should get you a winning record. Only seven teams have managed that to this point! New York has been unbeatable when the treys are falling during the best of times. They're probably better than 51-26 would suggest when it "matters," but much worse when just going through the motions. Worth remember next year during the midseason lull. Might as well point out again that we're always skeptical of basketball offenses who live by the trey. Tough to win a championship that way at the college or pro level.

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
New York: #3 in the NBA
Chicago: #24 in the NBA

The most efficient offense possible these days is one that makes a lot of treys. Efficiency is "points per possession." You post a THREE on a lot of your possessions and you're going to grade out as being very efficient. The problem with that comes in the postseason against a defense that takes that away from you. New York will get a good feel for that tonight because Chicago has an elite defense. You see above that the Bulls' offense is dismal, particularly against an East-heavy schedule.

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
New York: #16 in the NBA
Chicago: #6 in the NBA

Chicago will do what it can to deny open looks at the arc, and to contain Carmelo Anthony. New York's defense has slid back from last year...and is now in a range where you have to question their true championship potential. Defensive wins championships! Middling defense in the lesser conference probably doesn't.

REBOUND RATE RANKINGS
New York: #17 in the NBA
Chicago: #7 in the NBA

Classic "defense and rebounding" from Chicago. That gives them a chance to compete with anybody...before typically losing competitively to better overall teams. New York really needs to find an extra gear in these categories moving forward. It's easy to look great when the treys are falling against weak or disinterested opponents. Be sure you're scouting defense and rebounding with the Knicks when you watch this game on TNT.

PACE RANKINGS
New York: #26 in the NBA
Chicago: #27 in the NBA

Pay attention to this! New York plays so many high scoring games because of their trey-production that people think of them as an up-tempo team. They're actually just as slow as Chicago, believe it or not. New York works for treys from a slow, halfcourt approach. Chicago just passes the ball around and misses shots! A good sign for New York that they're so used to a "playoff" tempo.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
New York: 20-18
Chicago: 18-21

That's not what you'd expect to see given the full season mark. New York actually isn't that great vs. quality...even though you've watched them play some great games vs. Miami, Oklahoma City, and a few others. Live by the three, die by the missed three. The Knicks are barely over .500 vs. quality, which means they really squash bad teams. Chicago's defense and rebounding keeps them in the game vs. anybody. Will it keep them in the game tonight?

BEST EXPECTATION
The most simplistic way to view the game is to assume the Knicks will win and cover easily if they're making treys...but they'll find themselves in a dogfight if they're not. JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his New York sources all week because both the Knicks and Nets are looming large now and in the immediate future in the NBA. It's very likely he'll have either a side or a total for you in this marquee TV matchup on a light overall schedule.

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