Carmelo Anthony is back, and the New York Knicks hope it stays that way this time against the Chicago Bulls.
With Anthony returning from a suspension, the Knicks will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season by beating the Bulls for the second time in eight tries Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony, second in the league with 29.0 points per game, was suspended one game by the NBA for confronting Kevin Garnett after New York's 102-96 loss to Boston on Monday. The superstar forward was angry about Garnett's choice words during a fourth-quarter altercation, going toward the Celtics' locker room and then waiting near Boston's team bus after the game.
Without him Thursday, the Knicks (23-12) turned in one of their worst offensive performances of the season in an 81-76 loss at Central Division-leading Indiana. They made 34.8 percent from the floor for their worst shooting display since hitting a season-low 32.1 percent in a 93-85 defeat at Chicago on Dec. 8.
Anthony missed that meeting with a cut on his finger that required stitches.
He had 29 points against the Bulls in the most recent matchup Dec. 21, but was ejected with 6:45 to play in a 110-106 home defeat due to his second technical foul. It's unclear if any emotions will carry over after Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah and Knicks coach Mike Woodson were also tossed in the fourth quarter of that game, which Chicago led by as many as 25.
"(Things) were definitely escalating, but I don't think they're used to being down that much, too," Noah said of the Knicks that night. "If they were up 20 points, I don't think they would have been that frustrated."
New York has dropped six of the past seven meetings with the Bulls, and three in a row since Anthony had 43 points and hit the decisive 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left in overtime during a 100-99 home win April 8.
Chicago (19-14) is just 4-4 since last facing the Knicks, and is also looking for a bounce-back performance after falling 104-96 to Milwaukee on Wednesday to halt its three-game winning streak.
"We did not do the things we should have done to win," coach Tom Thibodeau told the team's official website. "Things change quickly in this league. If you don't play with great intensity, especially with people out, you are not going to give yourself a chance to win. If you want to make it a 'you shoot, I shoot' type of game, you're not going to go anywhere on that."
Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 11 rebounds and is enjoying perhaps his best stretch in three seasons with the Bulls, compiling double-doubles in six consecutive games while averaging 23.0 points and 11.8 rebounds.
He hasn't been nearly that productive in the two meetings with the Knicks this season, totaling 21 points with 17 boards.
Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli have done much of the damage in those games. Belinelli scored 22 points in each while Deng totaled 51 -- with 29 and 13 rebounds coming at MSG last month.
While the Bulls know they'll have to contend with Anthony, they're unaware of how much they'll see of Amare Stoudemire.
The big man was limited to 22 minutes and nine points Thursday after doctors told Woodson to limit his playing time as he continues to work his way toward full strength following surgery on his left knee. He's averaging 9.8 points in five games since his return.
Injuries have forced Stoudemire to miss four straight meetings with Chicago after averaging 27.0 points over the previous two.