New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (-1, 189)
When the 2013-14 NBA schedule was released months ago, an early December meeting between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks looked like a sure bet to be a battle between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Knicks will look to snap a nine-game slide when they visit the disappointing Nets on Thursday. Brooklyn is fighting through a series of injuries and turmoil on the coaching staff while dropping eight of its last 10.
New York is just one loss away from matching the worst record in the NBA, and star Carmelo Anthony is not happy about it. “We are the laughingstock of the league right now,” he told reporters. “It’s nothing to hide. We are.” The Nets would be the laughingstock if not for the Knicks and are hoping to snap a five-game home losing streak on Thursday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Knicks (-2.7) - Nets (-2.5) + Home Court (-3.0) = Nets +2.8
ABOUT THE KNICKS (3-13, 4-12 ATS): New York is without Tyson Chandler (broken leg) and is getting little from anyone other than Anthony. Coach Mike Woodson does not believe his players have quit on him and likes the way his team looks in practice. “Right now I think the spirits are still high,” Woodson told ESPN radio in New York. “Practice was spirited (on Wednesday). I think our guys are committed. They haven’t quit.” Anthony did not sound positively spirited when he told reporters, “Do I like being laughed at? Hell no. I don’t like that feeling.”
ABOUT THE NETS (5-13, 6-12 ATS): Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd played for the Knicks last season when the team won 54 games to take the Atlantic Division but is now wearing a suit on the sidelines and making some tough decisions about his staff, including demoting veteran coach Lawrence Frank. That move did not help much on Tuesday, as the Nets were blown out 111-87 in Denver with the former top assistant off the bench. Brooklyn is without Paul Pierce (broken hand), Deron Williams (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) while Kevin Garnett is averaging a career low in scoring (6.5 points) and Brook Lopez is seeing constant double teams.
* Under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings.
* Knicks are 7-3-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings in Brooklyn.
* Knicks are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. NBA Atlantic.
* Nets are 0-5 ATS in their last five home games.
1. New York rookie SG Tim Hardaway Jr. is 7-for-11 from 3-point range in the last two games.
2. The teams split the four meetings last season, with the margin of victory an average of 6.8 points.
3. Brooklyn G Joe Johnson is averaging 24 points on 17-for-30 shooting over the last two contests.
Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls (+4.5, 189)
A meeting between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls generally produces some sizzle, whether or not Derrick Rose is involved. But Rose’s latest injury has sent the Bulls into a tailspin, and they will be trying to win for just the second time in eight games when they host the Heat on Thursday. Miami had a 10-game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday and is opening up a four-game trip at Chicago that finishes with a stop at East-leading Indiana.
The Bulls remained one of the strongest defensive teams in the league with Rose out for the 2012-13 season but are struggling on that end since the latest season-ending knee injury to the former MVP. Chicago showed some fight in a 131-128 triple-overtime home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday but were burned on the perimeter, where they allowed the Pelicans to knock down 11 3-pointers. “Our defense is not there,” Luol Deng told the team’s website. “Especially we are not covering the (3-point) line well. That’s hurting us.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT, Sun Sports (Miami)
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Heat (-14.5) - Bulls (-7.0) + Home Court (-3.0) = Bulls +4.5
ABOUT THE HEAT (14-4, 9-9 ATS): Miami is among the league leaders in 3-point efficiency, knocking down 41.1 percent from long range, and rattled in 11-of-20 from beyond the arc in a 107-95 home triumph over the Bulls in the season opener on Oct. 29. The Heat were just 9-for-28 from 3-point range on Tuesday, however, as Shane Battier, James Jones and Chris Bosh combined to go 0-for-9. LeBron James is fighting through a back injury but is still shooting 57.8 percent from the field in his last three games.
ABOUT THE BULLS (7-9, 6-10 ATS): Despite the loss of Rose and the recent swoon, coach Tom Thibodeau is taking a positive approach. “I don’t see anyone hanging their head,” Thibodeau told ESPN Chicago. “(Rose’s) not going to be here, we know that. We’ve got more than enough here. Just concentrate on what we have to concentrate on.” Deng is stepping up with 27.4 points on 54.8 percent shooting in the last five games and Taj Gibson is coming off a career-best 26 points and 14 rebounds in Monday’s loss.
* Heat are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Under is 11-5 in the last 16 meetings in Chicago.
1. Heat G Dwyane Wade (soreness) sat out Tuesday’s game and is day-to-day.
2. Miami has taken five straight in the series going back to last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
3. Chicago F Carlos Boozer is struggling to 7.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the last three contests.