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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The New York Knicks seemed to miss Carmelo Anthony against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month.
They'll have him on the court Friday night when they attempt to improve the best home record in the NBA against Joakim Noah and the stingy Bulls.
A lacerated finger on his left hand forced Anthony to miss New York's 93-85 loss at Chicago on Dec. 8. Without the superstar forward, the Knicks (19-6) turned in their worst offensive performance of the season, setting season lows in points and field-goal percentage (32.1).
Anthony had 43 points and hit a 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left in overtime to secure a 100-99 win over Chicago (14-10) in the most recent matchup at Madison Square Garden on April 8.
Anthony enters this meeting after scoring 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting - 4 of 8 from beyond the arc - in Wednesday's 100-86 win over Brooklyn. It was unclear if he would even play after missing the previous two games with a sprained left ankle.
"He looked good to me," coach Mike Woodson said. "If he's not 100 percent, I'll take whatever percent he was, because that was awesome."
The same could be said for the Knicks' play at home, where they are a league-best 11-1 while averaging 104.8 points per game and 40.7 percent from long range.
New York is 3-1 on this six-game homestand, which ends against Minnesota on Sunday before it opens a three-game trip against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.
"It's very important that we finish this home stretch strong before we go out on the road," center Tyson Chandler said. "Coach has preached it through training camp; make sure the Garden is our house, and make sure teams understand that they have to go somewhere else to get a win."
Chandler has heeded that message, averaging 16.3 points and 11.0 rebounds over the last four games. He pulled down a season high-tying 18 boards with 14 points at Chicago two weeks ago, while contending with Noah in a matchup of two of the league's top centers.
Noah, who finished that meeting with 10 points and 11 rebounds, averages 11.0 points and 5.7 boards over his last three visits to MSG.
He was much better than that Tuesday, recording his second career triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and a career high-tying 10 assists in a 100-89 win over Boston.
"(Noah) is amazing man, great passer," forward Carlos Boozer said. "Probably the best passing big man in the league. Underrated, plays hard, has great court vision."
Noah is also known for being tough defensively, and that's helped Chicago rank second in the NBA in scoring defense (90.3).
The Bulls have held 13 of their last 14 opponents under 100 points, and are yielding 86.5 per game during a 4-2 stretch that started with the win over the Knicks.
Boozer also gives Chicago a strong presence up front, and he's looking to build on his 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Celtics.
He had 12 points and 10 boards against New York earlier this month, but averages 18.5 and 13.3, respectively, in 13 road meetings.
The Bulls have won five of six against the Knicks.
Updated December 20, 2012