Chicago (18-9) at New York (17-12)

By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Senior Writer Thursday, Dec 23, 2010 Tipoff: 12:00 pm EST Sat Dec 25, 2010

The New York Knicks caught the Chicago Bulls without one of their star big men in an impressive victory at the United Center last month.

The Bulls will be without another front-court stalwart for the rematch, but with Carlos Boozer(notes) back it might not matter.

Joakim Noah(notes) is now sidelined but Boozer is rounding into form after his injury-delayed debut, and he’ll look to lead the Bulls to their 10th win in 11 games when they visit Amare Stoudemire(notes) and the Knicks on Christmas afternoon.

New York (17-12) attempts a league-high 24.8 3-pointers - a pattern it established from the start of the season. The Knicks made 16 - five by Tony Douglas en route to a career-high 30 points - of 24 from beyond the arc in Chicago on Nov. 4. Danilo Gallinari(notes) and Raymond Felton(notes) added four 3-pointers apiece in New York’s 120-112 victory.

That loss is still the season high in points allowed for Chicago (18-9), which lately has been holding opponents well below triple digits. The Bulls suffered ugly losses in Boozer’s first two games back from a broken right hand, but have since won nine of 10 while allowing 87.7 points per game despite Noah’s absence due to thumb surgery.

That defense certainly made the difference Wednesday at Washington. Chicago held the Wizards to 47 points over the final three quarters while Boozer finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in an 87-80 victory.

Boozer is averaging averaged 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds over the last 10 games.

“It’s amazing that he’s doing what he’s doing,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s still working himself into shape. His legs aren’t under him yet in his timing.”

Stoudemire and the Knicks went through their own seemingly unstoppable stretch, a 13-1 run Nov. 17-Dec. 12 that concluded with the first eight of Stoudemire’s nine straight games with at least 30 points.

He hasn’t reached 25 in his last three contests, but New York was simply happy to put an end to its three-game slide Wednesday against Oklahoma City. Stoudemire scored 23 points to lead six Knicks in double figures in a 112-98 win.

“It was a tough week,” Stoudemire said. “We were fatigued, we were tired. Honestly we were. So I think (Wednesday) showed that we got enough rest and we played with a lot of energy. We have a tough week still ahead of us, but we’re starting off right.”

Stoudemire was one of the few Knicks that had a rough night during the first meeting with the Bulls. He tied a season low with 14 points, missing 16 of 21 shots while committing eight turnovers.

This is the third meeting between New York and Chicago on Christmas, and the first since 1994 - the second year of Michael Jordan’s baseball hiatus.

Jordan certainly enjoyed facing the Knicks during the teams’ heated rivalry in the early ’90s, and the Bulls’ current superstar seems to share those feelings. Derrick Rose(notes) has averaged 26.5 points and shot 58.7 percent in his last four meetings with New York.

The Knicks also need to do a better job defending Luol Deng(notes). Chicago’s small forward has averaged 20.8 points against New York since the 2007-08 season - his most against any Eastern Conference opponent.

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Saturday, Dec 25