Bulls at Knicks — Noon on ABC
The biggest thing about this game is the return of Derrick Rose, plain and simple. The Bulls have gone a month without him in the lineup and they are ready to welcome him back at this critical part of the season.
This game is huge for both teams involved and is drenched with playoff implications.
The biggest one being the Bulls and their attempts to close out the Heat and the Eastern Conference. Chicago is 3 games ahead of Miami and will be separated by just one game played after Sunday. The Bulls play New York again on Tuesday and then the Heat on Thursday, so if Chicago loses both games to the Knicks, the Heat would be a game out come Thursday and the game would mean the difference between the Bulls remaining in first and slipping to second.
The Knicks want this.
Not because they have a vendetta against the Bulls, but because they are desperately trying not to drown and fall out of the playoff picture. One the one hand, the Knicks trail the Sixers for the seventh seed by just one game.
But on the other hand, the Bucks are a half game away from them and knocking New York out of the playoff picture.
The Knicks need these two games worse then the Bulls. If Chicago loses, they just lose positioning with the Heat. Chicago would still have home court advantage through the Semi-Finals. But if the Knicks lose, it means the difference between making the playoffs and spending the summer being ridiculed for the season they had.
It’s not going to be easy for the Knicks, and that’s not counting Rose in the picture. The Knicks are without both Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin leaving them with Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony — sorry Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler (Melo doesn’t like it when he’s not given first billing) as viable talent.
Derrick Rose is in a perfect game to bounce back from missing nearly a month. It’s nationally televised, it’s against a big market team, it’s a potential first round playoff preview and it’s against a badly wounded team. It’s also against the team Rose tweaked his groin and was forced to miss so many games.
“My groin is not bothering me,” Rose said. “I’m happy to move on. My spirits are up. … And hopefully I’ll be playing Sunday.”
That’s good news for Chicago and their playoff hopes and a borderline death knell for the Knicks. We will find out which team wants the playoffs more: the Bulls and the top seed to the Knicks and a ticket to the playoffs.