Monday, December 5, 2022
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Preview: Chicago Bulls (14-8) at New York Knicks (11-10)

Alec Burks has put his best foot forward since replacing Kemba Walker in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks.

Fresh off recording back-to-back season-high point totals, Burks looks to continue his hot hand on Thursday as the Knicks host the Chicago Bulls.

Burks contributed 23 points in New York’s 99-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and 25 points three nights later in a 112-110 setback to the Brooklyn Nets.

Burks added his fifth assist against the Nets after inbounding the ball to Evan Fournier for a 3-pointer that forged a tie at 110 with 17.7 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

“It was good,” teammate Julius Randle said. “AB, especially early, got off to a good start, aggressive pushing the ball. Coach said before it gave us more size on the defensive end. So we were switching and active. It’s still going to take time to get it exactly like we want it to be. But we’re right on the verge of being really good.”

Speaking of Randle, he scored 34 points in New York’s 109-103 setback in Chicago on Nov. 21. He made 13 of 19 shots in that game, as opposed to a 3-for-11 performance from the floor during his 13-point effort in a 104-103 win over the Bulls on Oct. 28.

Randle, however, had bigger fish to fry on Tuesday. Sure, the All-Star forward collected 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for a solid game against the Nets, however he expressed his displeasure with being limited to just two trips to the foul line.

“Got to ask them,” Randle said of the officiating crew. “I don’t know what they’re watching or what they’re seeing. As aggressive as I played, attacking the paint, I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people. And that is an answer that I got today.”

Randle will look for a different answer on Thursday when he faces Nikola Vucevic, who erupted for a season-high 30 points in Chicago’s 133-119 victory over Charlotte Hornets.

Vucevic made 12 of 19 shots floor — including all six attempts from 3-point range — after averaging just 12.3 points while making a total of 16 of 38 shots in his previous three games.

“I just had to find my rhythm and work through some things to figure out my spots and positions and how to play with my new teammates and my role and everything,” Vucevic said. “I thought I was getting my rhythm and then I got COVID and had to sit out. (Monday) was a good game for me; it was good to make some shots and find my rhythm a little bit and hopefully I can continue to do that.”

Vucevic is averaging just 14.5 points per game this season, a full seven points fewer than last season’s average and 2.3 below his career average.

“I have confidence in my game,” the two-time All-Star said. “I have been playing at a high level for a long time, so I knew it was going to come. I’ve been averaging 20 a game for however long, so I knew I could do it. It was just (taking) me some time to get comfortable with the way we play.”

Vucevic also collected 14 rebounds on Monday, marking the ninth time in his last 10 games that he registered double-digit totals in boards.

Ty Gaston

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