To say New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony has the hot hand right now is an understatement.
The catalyst behind the Knicks' 13-game winning streak, Anthony looks to maintain his scoring touch Thursday in a road bout with the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
Anthony is the NBA's leading scorer with 28.6 ppg, just ahead of Kevin Durant's 28.3 ppg, but has averaged 40.6 points in his last five games. Anthony, who ended March with seven straight 20-point performances, has scored at least 36 points during his recent tear for Atlantic Division-champion New York, which made it 13 straight wins with Monday's 120-99 demolition of the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
New York was led by Anthony's 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting and the sweet- stroking forward added eight rebounds and six assists. Iman Shumpert scored 18 points and both J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland netted 17 apiece off the bench for the Knicks, who captured their first division crown since 1993-94 and are second in the East standings -- 2 1/2 games ahead of idle Indiana.
"The second seed is still out there," said coach Mike Woodson. "It's something that's right in front of us to take. And we just gotta figure out how to go get it."
Continuing to score at a high rate is one way. During this 13-game run, the Knicks are averaging more than 100 points per game.
The Knicks haven't lost since March 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers and have won six in a row as the visitor. They will also visit Cleveland on this quick trek and own a 22-16 mark outside of Gotham.
New York, which hit the 50-win mark over the weekend for the first time since 1999-00, last won 14 in a row during a 15-game burst from March 1-April 2 of the 1993-94 campaign. The Knicks lost to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals in seven games that year.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler (bulging disc) and forward Kenyon Martin (ankle) are expected to miss Thursday's game.
Chicago has lost two straight and three of five games, including Monday's 101-98 setback to the Toronto Raptors at the United Center.
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, Nate Robinson netted 22 off the bench and Carlos Boozer posted 19 points for the Bulls, who were without Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. Gibson is out indefinitely, Deng is questionable versus the Knicks and Noah is expected to sit once again.
"We have to be a lot tough mentally," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Bulls are even with Atlanta for fifth in the East standings and lost out to the Pacers on claiming another Central Division title.
Still a dominant presence on defense, the Bulls, who are third in opponents' scoring at 92.5 ppg, will try to slow down a Knicks squad that is averaging exactly 100.0 ppg this season.
Chicago is 22-17 as the host and will begin a three-game road trip Friday against Toronto, Miami and Orlando.
The Bulls target a four-game season sweep of the Knicks Thursday and have won four straight, seven of eight and 11 of the last 15 meetings between the teams. New York has lost three straight, seven of eight and 19 of its last 22 trips to the Windy City.
New York hasn't been swept in a season series by Chicago since 2004-05 (0-4).