Knicks vs. Bulls (8pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
After starting the season at 22-22 and brimming with hope, the New York Knicks have fallen back to Earth, losing 21 of 27. On Sunday, the Sacramento Kings delivered an 88-80 loss to the Knickerbockers in a game that saw Boogie Cousins post a 24-20, barely outperforming his Knicks counterpart Robin Lopez’s 23-20. The Kings won despite being outrebounded 55-49 and shooting just 40% from the floor as the Knicks shot an anemic 35% – that ain’t gonna cut, especially when you’re without the services of your big dog, Carmelo Anthony, who was out with migraine-like symptoms, but is expected to play tonight. The Knicks are 28-43 and in 13th place in the East.
Not so long ago, the Chicago Bulls were 22-12 and then the injury bug hit: Pau Gasol missed six games, Derrick Rose missed seven, Jimmy Butler missed 15, and Nikola Mirotic missed 16. Now, the Bulls are 36-33, barely hanging on to the 8th spot in the East ahead of the Pistons by 0.08 percentage points. But on Saturday, the Bulls beat the Kings 109-102, coming back from being down five midway through the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol returned from a four-game absence to post 14 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in just 24+ minutes while Derrick Rose made nine of 15 on his way to 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Rose is shooting 52.4%, while scoring 20 ppg over his last 12 games.
Clippers vs. Warriors (10:30pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
On Sunday, the Clippers fell to the lowly Pelicans 109-105 on a day when New Orleans was without star center Anthony Davis, who is not out for the season. Clipper JJ Reddick was the only guy who brought his shot, making nine of 11 for 24 points, while the rest of the Clips went 24 for 71 and were outrebounded 44-35. The loss was LA’s second in a row, – sixth in their last nine games – bringing their record to 43-26, which is still good enough for fourth in the West as they continue to await the return of Blake Griffin from a fractured hand and subsequent four-game suspension for the incident that broke said hand.
Maybe it’s regression to the mean, maybe it’s fatigue, maybe the long All-Star break killed their momentum, but the Golden State Warriors have been merely dominant of late, winning “just” 15 of their last 18 games – an .833 clip that would only be the second-best in the NBA this season. Two days after falling to the Spurs, the Warriors needed a 16-7 spurt down the stretch to pull away from an inferior ‘Wolves team for a 109-104 victory on Tuesday. The Warriors have averaged .8 fewer ppg since the break, while the opposition’s scoring has jumped 4.7 ppg with most of the damage coming from beyond the three-point line and foes’ three-point percentage has popped from 31.4% to 36.9%. Golden State’s defensive struggles, such as they are, can likely be attributed to the on-again, off-again presence of Andre Iguodala, who’s missed nine of the last 12 games, including the last six, and remains day-to-day. The Warriors need to close out the season 10-5 to break the Bulls record of 72 wins in a season. The Warriors’ worst 15-game stretch this season saw them go 12-3.