High-scoring Knicks look to knock off unbeaten Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are off to their first 4-0 start since 1996, but nobody in the Windy City is printing playoff tickets yet. The promising team understands the long journey ahead, starting with Thursday’s matchup against the visiting New York Knicks.
While the season is not yet two weeks old, there is a palpable buzz surrounding these two upstart squads. NBA TV has taken notice by adding the game to its schedule in place of its scheduled contest between Philadelphia and Detroit.
The Knicks are 3-1 after snapping a 15-game losing streak against the Philadelphia 76ers with a 112-99 victory on Tuesday.
Chicago sits as the Eastern Conference’s lone undefeated team with new arrival DeMar DeRozan playing a key role. DeRozan scored 26 points against his former team in Chicago’s 111-108 win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
“It doesn’t mean nothing,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot more to clean up, to learn. It’s a long season. It’s great, but we’ve got a lot more basketball to go. We’ve got to move on to the next game. We can’t carry this record like it’s some type of badge of honor. We’ve got to understand the next game is going to be even harder.”
DeRozan is averaging 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the field for the Bulls, who were 31-41 last season.
The four-time All-Star has averaged 20.6 points in 39 career games against the Knicks, whose depth has been on display during their impressive start.
In Tuesday’s win over Philadelphia, eight Knicks scored at least eight points. Kemba Walker led the charge with 19 points, Evan Fournier had 18, and Julius Randle added 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“Anybody can score and make plays and that’s what this team can do,” Randle said. “It’s great I don’t have to get 30 to give us a chance to win. As long as we defend, we’re going to have a shot.”
Walker was 5-of-11 from 3-point range for the Knicks, who have not been shy from beyond the arc. New York made 15 of its first 23 attempts in Tuesday’s win and are shooting 38 percent on treys through four games.
“Clearly they’re a better offensive team because they have more shot makers. They have more playmakers,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s one thing about Kemba and Fournier. They’re not just scorers. They’re playmakers, and the more playmakers you can add to a team, the better.”
The Knicks are averaging 118.8 points but face a tough matchup against a Chicago defense that is holding opponents to 97.5 points per game. DeRozan has brought a veteran presence next to starters Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine.
Ball made a season-high five 3-pointers in the win over Toronto and is averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and five assists while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from 3-point range.
LaVine has a small ligament tear in the thumb of his non-shooting hand, but he’s hoping to play through the injury. He leads the Bulls in scoring at 25.5 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range.
“I think right now it’s just trying to figure out how to manage the pain and keep it safe,” LaVine said. “Then going forward, I’ll get more information on it if I plan on playing with it.”