Chicago Bulls (15-10) 110, New York Knicks 106 (19-7)
Despite my pregame fears, the Bulls were clearly ready to play tonight, jumping out to a 14-2 lead in the game's opening minutes, silencing what has the potential to be a raucous MSG crowd.
In the first half, everything was turning up Milhouse for the Bulls. Outside shots fell with regularity (even Kirk Hinrich was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc) and the defense clamped down on Carmelo Anthony early while Felton bricked shot after shot, continuing his shooting struggles.
But, as they say, "remember remember the 26th of November." I know they don't say that, but they should. Large leads will always feel like fleeting, ephemeral things for this team after that defeat, but the Bulls showed no signs of this being the case in the first half. The Bulls went into the locker room up 54-39, taking advantage of a Knicks defense that has steadily gotten worse since the first couple of weeks of the season while also harassing Carmelo with a combo of Deng and Butler.
Once again, a hat tip has to go to Jimmy Butler, who played some solid D on Carmelo Anthony once again. I'm not sure why or how, but Butler seems to have Melo figured out.
The Knicks weren't really getting much offense in the half court, unless isolation dribbling counts as "offense," which I suppose it does. Regardless, the Bulls kept the potent Knicks offense in check, just like the did during the first matchup in Chicago.
-Bulls PPP: 1.14
- Deng: 6-12, 14 pts, 8 rebounds
- Noah: 4-9, 11 pts, 6 rebounds
- Hinrich: 3-3, 8 pts, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
-Knicks PPP: 0.82
- Anthony: 6-15, 13 pts
- Smith: 5-12, 13 pts, 7 rebounds
- Felton: 3-9, 7 pts, 3 turnovers, 0 assists
The second half began and it was, amazingly, more of the same. Six minutes into the third, the Bulls were still up 64-47, with not much of a sign of either the Bulls slowing down or the Knicks picking it up. The Knicks continued to bog themselves down in a quagmire of dribbling and imprudent outside shots; at the halfway point of the 3rd, Felton was 3-for-11 from the field and a -19 on the night. Meanwhile, Kirk Hinrich's stat line looked as such: 5-for-7, 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. I would insert a hackneyed MAYANS joke here, but why ruin the moment. In any case, sorry Kirk for those passive-aggressive comments about how Nate starting might be okay with me let's just forget about that and move on.
There was a brief moment of worry in the third quarter when Deng exited after clutching his shoulder in pain, but he came back in a few minutes later with the Bulls up 21. Crisis averted.
To show you how effectively the Bulls shut down the Knicks attack, Tyson Chandler got his first shot of the night with 1:24 left in the third quarter off of a pick and roll. The Knicks couldn't find anything in the pick and roll all night. I'm trying to remember even a few instances of the Knicks going to the P&R and I couldn't recall very many at all, which is a strange thing indeed for an NBA game.
After a third period full of technical fouls, the Bulls extending their lead by eight, entering the final period up 83-61. Unlike the Milwaukee game on Nov. 26, the Knicks weren't really showing any signs of getting it together like the Bucks did at the end of that third quarter. The only way the Knicks were going to make a comeback was via a 12-minute virtuoso performance from one Carmelo Anthony, who was just 9-for-23 through three quarters.
The Knicks started to make a bit of a run, cutting the lead down to 15 around the 7:00 minute mark. New York chipped a bit off what was at one point a 21-point lead, but they started to behave like children after eating half of their Halloween candy in one sitting, firing up outside shots instead of setting up any sort of offense.
The Knicks lost J.R. Smith for the night after he fouled out five minutes into the 4th in a hard midair collision with Butler following a long rebound. About 15 seconds later, the Knicks lost Carmelo Anthony after he picked up a second technical foul. Just to put it in perspective, the Knicks lost the two guys who had accounted for 74% of NY's scoring to that point (i.e. 55 out of 74 points).
There was still six and a half minutes to go, but without Smith and Anthony, it was game blouses for the Knicks. Mike Woodson apparently agreed, as he was more than willing to get himself tossed about a minute later.
Shortly thereafter, a fight (which in basketball is tantamount to a lot of "come at me bro" pushing) saw to the exist of Noah and Chandler. It was a fitting end to a night of chippy basketball, albeit not much chippier than usual (or so I thought). The MSG announcing duo of Walt Frazier and Mike Breen continually remarked on the physicality of the Bulls' brand of defense. I don't even mean this in a snarky way, but I have to wonder how the Knicks will respond come playoff time.
The game wasn't quite over yet. Following the aforementioned shoving fest, the Knicks quietly cut the lead down to just 10 with 2:36 to go after a pair of Felton free throws. Visions of Nov. 26 came to mind as the Bulls apparently were determined to make this game needlessly close.
Fortunately, the Knicks weren't able to get much closer, and thus the Bulls walk away from New York with a huge victory. Although the victory was marred somewhat by the 4th quarter shenanigans, the Bulls played excellent, tough basketball all game, shot the ball well and generally didn't make very many egregious mistakes.
Once again, I am left wondering how folks can not be excited about this team, even without Derrick Rose. When they're on, the Bulls are one of the most effective teams in the league, especially given the lack of top shelf athleticism on the roster.
As far as I'm concerned, solid basketball and winning is far more exciting than any other brand of basketball. At 15-10 on the season, the season hasn't been without its warts, but if you're still complaining, even after masterpieces --well, through 3.5 quarters-- like this, you doth protest too much.