New York (17-18) at Chicago (15-18)

Fair Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 3:30 pm EST Sat Jan 15, 2005
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Not since the days of Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing has a Chicago Bulls-New York Knicks matchup featured two contending teams. The current state of the Eastern Conference helps.

The Bulls seek a sixth straight win when they open a home-and-home series with the stumbling Knicks, coming off an embarrassing loss.

Though both squads enter this contest under .500, both were among the top eight in the East through Thursday’s games.

Chicago and New York battled throughout the 1990s for Eastern Conference supremacy with the Bulls usually coming out on top. During Chicago’s championship run from 1990-98, the Bulls ousted the Knicks from the playoffs four times with Jordan besting Ewing each time.

The Bulls have been in a perpetual rebuilding mode since Jordan left, and an 0-9 start to this season seemed like more of the same. But Chicago has reeled off its second five-game streak and won 13 of 18 to move into position to contend for a playoff spot.

“Even when we were 0-9, I said I thought we were a pretty consistent, levelheaded group,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We’ll have our ups and downs, but we’ve been able to stay pretty balanced and ultimately that will help us. I think we’re going to get better.”

Chicago’s latest win was its most lopsided of the season, 110-78 over Philadelphia on Wednesday. Rookie Ben Gordon scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and Eddy Curry added 24 points.

The Bulls limited the 76ers to less than 38 percent shooting and held an opponent under 100 points for the 20th straight game.

“We’ve been playing real good defense,” Gordon said. “And that’s what’s been helping us win games. We’re really proud of our defense, and it’s something we want to do throughout the season.”

New York, in first place in the mediocre Atlantic Division, lost 88-82 at home to New Orleans on Tuesday. The Knicks managed just 35 points in the second half against the team that owns the NBA’s worst record.

“Our struggle and our battle is mental,” Knicks guard Allan Houston said. “It’s definitely a time when we have to raise our mental awareness.”

New York has lost five of six games, a stretch during which Houston, coming off knee surgery, has been struggling. In the five losses, he has shot 33.8 percent and averaged 13 points.

The Knicks had needed Houston to step up with guard Jamal Crawford sidelined by turf toe. There is a slim chance Crawford, who spent his first four seasons with Chicago, will be able to return for this contest. He could be back for the rematch Monday in New York.

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