Bulls-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

Sparked by Carmelo Anthony's return, the New York Knicks posted their most efficient offensive display in almost seven years their last time out.

While their opponent in that game left much to be desired, the Knicks know they'll be tested as they begin their only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season Thursday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, who are trying to avoid losing two in a row for the first time in nearly a year.

After dropping nine of 10, New York (8-13) regrouped in impressive fashion with a 113-86 rout of woeful Detroit on Tuesday. Anthony, who sat out the previous two games with ankle, wrist and thumb injuries, led the way with 25 points as the Knicks shot 60.0 percent.

"A lot of that is Melo," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You could see he was well, he looked good and we play a lot off him and he draws a lot of attention, makes it easy for everybody else, kind of puts everybody else back in their roles that they do."

While New York was in high spirits after blowing out the Pistons, things are about to get much more difficult thanks to a grueling slate of games - starting with the Bulls (18-6).

"Chicago's a great test for us ... they play great defense, they execute," center Tyson Chandler said. "Coming off a good win (Tuesday), if we play the same way and lock in defensively, I like our chances."

Sitting 7 1/2 games behind Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia, the Knicks visit Boston on Friday before hosting New Jersey on Saturday.

"I think (this stretch) is a great mental challenge for us and I like right where it's coming at and the teams that we're gonna be going up against," Chandler added. "It's an opportunity for this team to turn things around and make a leap."

New York could be hard-pressed to build on its latest effort as Chicago is surrendering 87.9 points per game to rank third in the league. The Bulls, though, couldn't slow down the 76ers on Wednesday and suffered their third loss in five games, 98-82.

"Our defense wasn't good. I thought our reaction to the ball was very poor," coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team was outscored 26-11 in the third quarter, told the NBA's official website.

In the midst of a nine-game road swing, Chicago was without injured starters Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton. While Hamilton has been ruled out indefinitely, Deng is expected to be available versus the Knicks following a six-game absence.

Deng was averaging 18.3 points and 9.0 rebounds over an eight-game span prior to getting hurt.

After averaging 34.3 points over his previous three contests, reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose scored 18 against Philadelphia.

Rose is averaging 26.2 points on 54.1 percent shooting over his last six meetings with New York. He had 26 points while Deng scored 23 in a 103-90 win at Madison Square Garden on April 12.

Carlos Boozer also came up big in that game with 14 points and 22 rebounds - one shy of his career high. Boozer is averaging 22.5 points and 15.8 boards during his last six visits to New York.

The Bulls haven't suffered back-to-back defeats since Feb. 5-7.

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