The Bulls delivered a wake-up call to the Knicks last night. After dropping 112 points in Miami on Thursday with a 54.9% effective field goal percentage (shooting metric accounting for the fact that three-pointers are worth 1.5 as much as two-point FGs), the Knicks scored a season-low 85 points while shooting a season-low eFG% of 36.9% last night.
The Knicks are looking to bounce back against the 10-10 Denver Nuggets tonight as they return from a road trip in which they played three games in the past four days. Fortunately for the Knicks Carmelo Anthony is expected to suit up after missing the last two games with a lacerated middle finger on his left hand.
Although the headlines will focus on Melo’s return vs. his former team, this game will come down to three unheralded factors: rebounding, turnovers, and J.R. Smith.
The Bulls outmanned the Knicks on the glass last night, finishing with a +6 rebounding advantage en route to a 93-85 win. Tonight the Knicks are up against the Nuggets, who lead the NBA in offensive rebounding rate, securing 34.1% of available offensive boards. Moreover, in eight of their ten wins, the Nuggets have won the rebounding battle, while the Knicks have failed to win the rebounding battle in all five of their losses. So the Knicks must crash the boards if they hope for a bounce back win tonight.
The Knicks committed 15 turnovers last night in Chicago, falling to 2-5 in games in which they turn the ball over 13+ times. Meanwhile, in their win in Indiana on Friday, the Nuggets tied their season-high in generating 18 Pacer turnovers and have now averaged 15 takeaways over their last 11 games. The Knicks must take care of the ball tonight, as they have done consistently this season, as evidenced by their league-leading 10.7% turnover rate (committing only about 10.7 turnovers per 100 plays).
The Knicks tend to go as J.R. Smith goes. In wins J.R. is averaging 14.5 points with a 45.1% shooting percentage from downtown and a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. In losses he’s averaging 11.0 points while only shooting 20% from three and with a dreadful 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Although J.R. scored 15 points yesterday, he shot only 2-for-8 beyond the arc and accumulated five turnovers versus just one assist. The Knicks need him to clean up his sloppy play tonight.