Sure, the Bulls just beat the Cavaliers, Bucks and Hawks. But, c’mon, they’re not the Knicks. True, those teams are among the elite in the Eastern Conference and the Knicks were 19 games below .500. Now 18.
That’s because the Knicks dominated the Bulls the last three quarters on the way to a 100-91 victory.
It was a discouraging loss for the Bulls, who believed by equaling their season best four-game winning streak coming in they could get on a roll toward the playoffs. Now they still have to work at it with four games left, including the 76ers and Nets on this trip.
The Bulls fell to 38-40. The Knicks are 30-38.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 26 points. Nikola Mirotic had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Anthony Morrow had his high as a Bull with 15 points.
The Knicks had a massive 53-36 edge in rebounding. The Bulls were six of 27 on threes.
Dwyane Wade remains out, though he is back traveling with the team and going through some drills in hopes of playing if the team makes the playoffs. The Knicks were without the injured Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah is suspended and Kristaps Porzingis was out with a back injury. Carmelo Anthony returned from back problems to play. The Knicks were looking to sweep the Bulls this season with a third straight win. The Bulls had their offense well tuned to start, Butler prospering in the post, Rondo handing out assists in each of the first five baskets, the Bulls shooting 63 percent six minutes into the game. The trouble was the Knicks shooting 64 percent for a 17-14 lead. The Bulls got 10 points from Butler in the first quarter and Rajon Rondo had assists on each of the Bulls first eight field goals. But with Anthony scoring 10 points, the Knicks led 29-24 after one quarter. It was a disastrous second quarter as the Bulls went scoreless for the first five and a half minutes as the Knicks opened the quarter with a 15-3 run over the first seven minutes for a 44-27 lead. The Knicks so called no names left the Bulls reading the backs of their jerseys as they drove by and pulled up for threes, the Knicks extending their lead to 21 at 52-31 on a Justin Holiday three with 2:57 left. Mirotic pushed the Bulls back within 54-50 at halftime with 13 points in the half.
And then it at least didn’t get better for the Bulls. The Knicks continued to take away the loose balls, the offensive rebounds for second chance points, their hustle overwhelming the Bulls. There were three offensive rebounds on one early third quarter possession that led to a Courtney Lee jumper. Rondo found Butler for a second lob dunk as the Bulls got back within 60-46 four minutes into the third quarter. But again it was the Knicks outhustling and outworking the Bulls with layups and dunks and Anthony almost causing Mirotic to fall over backward with a fake and step back for a 69-46 New York lead with 6:06 left in the third quarter. Butler tried to rally the Bulls back going hard to the basket and coach Fred Hoiberg gave Morrow a look to boost the scoring. The Bulls got within 80-64 after three quarters, though were dominated on the boards 40-28 through three quarters and shooting just four of 20 on threes through three. The Knicks lead matched their most after three this season. And then the Knicks trapped Butler on the inbounds to open the fourth quarter, causing the Bulls to call a timeout six seconds into the fourth. The Bulls made a late run with an eclectic group that included Morrow and Michael Carter-Williams, finally showing hustle and urgency and getting within 95-86 with 1:53 left. But Butler fouled Anthony on a jumper to end the comeback hopes.