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Time for Revenge, the Struggling Knicks Offense, First Coach Fired, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

With some family in town for the holidays, the significant other and I headed to her parents’ house this weekend to say hello. At the house were her 3-year-old twin cousins, who both have more energy at 7 a.m. than the Energizer Bunny on a RedBull-Espresso cocktail.

As I tried to match even half of their adorable chaotic energy with a coffee in hand, I watched the two beat the absolute crap out of a giant stuffed panda. I know nothing about wrestling, but I’m pretty sure they tried every move in the book. They were truly relentless, and just when it looked like they were about to step off the gas a bit, it’s like the Panda said something about their mother and the battle was back on.

Anyway, in my mind, it represented the kind of beatdown I hope we see from the Chicago Bulls tonight against the New York Knicks. No, I don’t want any actual physical assault (no one deserves what that poor Panda experienced), but I can only hope the Bulls bring that same endless energy and will to win.

•   Revenge tastes that much sweeter at home. The Knicks handed the Bulls their very first loss of the season back on October 28th. Chicago had a chance to pull off the victory on a last-second shot from DeMar DeRozan, but the clutch veteran came up short on the midrange jumper thanks to some rock-solid New York defense. The physicality and size the Knicks brought to the table clearly gave the Bulls trouble at the time. They were outrebounded 49-37 and outscored in the paint 50-40 … and that was with big man Nikola Vucevic on the floor. The starting center’s return should be on the horizon, but the expectation is that he will not be on the court tonight. All things considered, that should make this matchup against Julius Randle and Co. that much harder.

•   The good news is the Bulls have only improved since these two first played, and the Knicks can’t say the same. Despite Vucevic’s absence, Patrick Williams’ injury, and the re-acclimation of Coby White, the Bulls continue to look like one of the East’s biggest surprises. Meanwhile, the Knicks have faced quite the drop-off since starting the season 5-1, winning just four of their last 10 games. Tom Thibodeau’s crew has racked up losses against the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and Cleveland Cavaliers over that stretch, and their offensive rating has ranked just 24th since the start of November (was 3rd in the league over the first six games of the season).

•   The Knicks starting lineup, in particular, has been disastrous on the offensive end as of late. Their starters now average the 5th-fewest points per game while also shooting 6th-worst in the league. Tonight, that will group will go up against a Bulls starting five that has been almost the exact opposite, averaging the 2nd-most points among starters with the 14th-ranked FG%. Third-year wing RJ Barrett has certainly been part of the problem, as he’s failed to score over 15 points in six of the team’s last seven games after starting the season averaging nearly 20 points per game.

•  Of course, a Thibs team will always carry its weight on the defensive end. Thanks to the shot-blocking and rim-protecting ability of guys like Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel, the team allows the 5th-fewest points in the paint per game (42.0) while also blocking the 2nd-most shots a night.

•   The Knicks can bring all the defensive intensity they want, but my gut tells me it will not slow down DeMar DeRozan. The four-time All-Star has been as good as anyone in the league scoring the basketball this season, and it’s made for easily one of the best starts of his career. For years on end DeRozan got smack for not being a “winning player,” but his on/off differential this season suggests he makes one of the most positive impacts in the NBA.

•   Speaking of making a positive impact, Zach LaVine continues to reach new heights (even with a bum thumb).

•   If you’re going to the game tonight, I’ll trade you the best high five of your life for this bobblehead.

•   The Warriors are already the best team in the NBA … and now they get Klay back. Yikes for the league.

•   It’s official: Luke Walton is officially the first coach fired. The Kings were expected to take a step in the right direction this season, but the first couple of weeks have just shown more of the same.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.