Team on the Rise
Chicago — The Bulls began their annual circus trip with a victory in Houston Tuesday for their fourth straight win. Only San Antonio — winners of seven in a row — is a hotter team in the Association right now. The streak will stop for one of them tonight when they face each other.
Since falling to the Knicks at home on Nov. 4 and a road OT loss to Boston, Chicago scored three straight home wins before the circus trip — a seven-game, 12-day event that kicks the Bulls and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks out of the United Center while the circus is in town.
The Bulls also began last season's circus trip with a victory before losing the remaining five games on the long excursion by an average of 15.8 points a contest, while never scoring over 98. Since Michael Jordan's final season with Chicago (1997-98), the Bulls are 11-61 on the circus trip.
"All the stuff about going on the road and the circus, all this stuff, I'm not concerned about that. I'm just worried about the next game," first-year coach Tom Thibodeau said on the team's Web site.
Defense has been the key for Chicago (6-3), which is 6-0 when it holds opponents under 100. The Bulls have allowed just 92.5 a game during the winning streak.
Chicago is doing all this on the shoulders of Derrick Rose (24.7 ppg, 9.2 apg), Joakim Noah (16.0 ppg, 12.8 rpg) and Luol Deng (19.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) while Carlos Boozer recovers from a hand injury and the team tries to settle in at the 2-guard spot.
Team on the Decline
New York — The Knicks defeated Chicago and Washington in back-to-back nights starting Nov. 4 but have failed to win since.
It doesn't seem to be for a lack of trying on the offensive end — a trait coach Mike D'Antoni is well known for. The Knicks are averaging 101.6 points a game — 0.9 above the league average — during the six-game slide.
But defense is not a trait D'Antoni's teams are known for and it is glaring during the losing streak as New York is surrendering 111.8 a game — 11.1 above the league average.
It'd be easy to say this started when the Knicks allowed Kevin Love to put up 31 points and grab 31 boards against them on Nov. 12, but that was in the middle of this losing streak.
It won't get any easier with three more on the road before returning for a back-to-back and home-and-home against Charlotte next Tuesday.
I thought the Knicks would put together a great week after coming off four- and five-point losses to Boston and Portland before the Chicago and Washington wins. I still see wins coming for this squad, but will they already be too rattled for it to matter when they do find the win column with consistency?
Numbers to Know
50 — LeBron might have left Cleveland, but there's always the bench. The Cavaliers' bench scored 54 points Tuesday against Philly, the third time the team's bench has scored 50. That number equals last year's entire total for the bench, according to Elias.
8 — When Chicago overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Houston on Tuesday it was the first time the Bulls had come back from a margin of at least eight on the road since April 3, 2008. The Bulls had lost 48 straight games in that situation prior to the Houston win, according to Elias.
25 — Washington collected 28 assists in a win over Toronto on Tuesday, marking the fifth straight game the team has had at least 25 assists. That is the team's longest such streak since April 1997, according to Elias.
6 — New Jersey's Anthony Morrow needs just six more 3-pointers to qualify for the NBA's all-time highest 3-point field goal percentage. He is currently shooting .454 (244-of-538). Steve Kerr holds the mark at .454 on 726-of-1,599).
Beyond the Arc
West returns: Delonte West, suspended by the Association for the first 10 games of the season after pleading guilty to weapons charges, makes his debut tonight against the Washington Wizards.
West, who played for Doc Rivers in Boston from 2004-2007, gives the 8-2 Celtics yet another productive player to help lead the reserves. The guard, who will spell Ray Allen and has been a starter in three of his eight seasons, is a career .446 shooter, scoring 10 a game with 3.7 assists, 3.1 boards and 1.1 steals.
Home is where the wins are?: The 76ers are certainly hoping a return home will produce some wins — or at least some points.
The team went on the road for five straight games and defeated the Knicks on Nov. 7, but have lost the last four in a row.
Standout Andre Iguodala, who had not missed a game in 252 contests prior to the Knicks game, has not played since the last home game — Nov. 5 vs. Cleveland (116-123). Tendinitis in his right Achilles will continue to sideline him.
The 76ers have been limited to 90, 93 and 93 in their last three games. At home this season Philly is 1-4, but at least averaging 101.3 a game. The team is back for two starting tonight before a four-game road stretch.
Miami Heat: There's nothing really to say here. I wouldn't be doing my job if I put together an Eastern Conference notes package and didn't mention the Heat.
Until they do something worthy of them being mentioned outside of just being The Big Three and the Miami Heat, it's just nitpicking at a team we all know will be one of the final four in the East when it's all said and done.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
Bulls flying high as circus trip begins
Team on the Rise