Bulls’ best chance to stop Carmelo Anthony is with Luol Deng
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com April 10, 2013 9:39PM
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: Luol Deng #9 and Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls combine to stop Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 11, 2013 in New York City
The facts: 7, TNT, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 10, 2013 11:37PM
Luol Deng nodded his head and smiled.
“I’m all right, feeling good,” he said of his sore hip.
That’s good news for the Bulls, but it isn’t good enough.
“Feeling good” doesn’t make him a lock to play Thursday against the New York Knicks. Coach Tom Thibodeau called Deng “a game-time decision’’ after practice Wednesday.
“Feeling good” didn’t change the fact that the Bulls are crawling into the postseason, rather than strutting.
And “feeling good” won’t stop Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony.
Led by Anthony, the Knicks cruise into the United Center on a 13-game winning streak. In the last five games, Anthony has averaged 40.6 points while shooting 61 percent from the field.
“He’s been a great player in the league for a long time,” Thibodeau said. “Probably one of the top three premiere scorers in the league. He can score so many different ways: He can shoot, he can post, he can drive. Guys like that, they get into a rhythm, and they’re hard to stop.”
But the Bulls seem to have a stopper. In the team’ three meetings this season — all won by the Bulls — Deng has been the star, turning Anthony into nothing more than the best supporting actor.
Anthony didn’t play in the first game because of a finger injury. Deng scored 22 points in 47 minutes.
In Game 2, Anthony scored 29 points but was ejected for picking up a second technical with 6:45 left in the game. Deng also scored 29 points and had 13 rebounds.
In the last meeting, Anthony scored 39 points, but Deng had 33. And a closer look at the numbers shows that Anthony wanted nothing to do with Deng.
Anthony shot 6-for-16 from the field with Deng guarding him, including 2-for-7 from at least 15 feet. Deng shot 8-for-9 when he was guarded by Anthony.
The Bulls are 3-4 without Deng this season, and they’re winless in their last two games without him.
“It’s huge. We miss him a ton,” Kirk Hinrich said. “But we feel like as a group we still have enough to get the job done. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to compete, we’re going to have to scratch, we’re going to have to fight.”
With Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in right foot) likely to miss the game, Thibodeau could go with the same starting lineup he had Tuesday in the loss to the Toronto Raptors: Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed. That means Butler would guard Anthony.
“A guy like [Anthony] is going to be virtually impossible to stop,” Thibodeau said. “You’ve just got to try and make him work for his points, and that requires your whole team.”