NEW YORK - Taj Gibson is playing Friday night against the Knicks, Derrick Rose is still in light practice mode, and Richard Hamilton? Well, the torn plantar fascia in his left foot still has him sidelined. All this, and another meeting with the New York Knicks - this time with Carmelo Anthony in the lineup.
In the first meeting of the two teams almost two weeks ago in Chicago, it was the Bulls out-scoring New York 26-20 in the fourth, holding off one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, 93-85.
A nice win, no doubt. But also a slightly empty one, considering Anthony was out with an injured finger that required stitches.
Anthony is back, and the Garden lights will be on. A whole different test for the Bulls tonight.
Three keys to not letting the bright lights of Broadway blind the Bulls:
1. Luol! - It's that simple for the Bulls. Luol Deng will likely draw the Melo assignment on defense, and still have to help carry the load on offense, like he did two weeks ago. In that win over the Knicks, Deng put up 22 points and had five rebounds, but was an eye-opening plus-22 in the plus/minus category when he was on the floor that night. Expect heavy minutes once again for Deng, and a chance to continue to throw his name in the hat for an All-Star spot if he can slow down Anthony.
2. Stop Felton! - The Bulls had no answer for point guard Raymond Felton in Round 1 of the series, and actually have had their troubles dealing with opposing point guards as of late, with Rajon Rondo and Mike Conley each giving them fits in their last two games. Kirk Hinrich is slowly getting back from the left knee injury, so there is a chance that head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to also give minutes to Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague in order to give Felton some different looks.
3. Hope it holds - The Bulls needs Gibson and his sore right ankle, and after missing practice on Thursday, declared himself fit to go during the Friday morning shootaround. The Knicks are a physical team inside, and as the Bulls have shown most of the season, they need to match the physicality of teams in the paint in order to be competitive. Gibson is a big factor in that physical play.