Game Recap: Bulls 108, Knicks 101

The Good:
The Bulls bounced back from a bad home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks by busting one of the league’s best teams on the road. Chicago’s offense put on a show by shooting a sizzling 57.4 percent from the field and scoring at torrid rate of 117.2 points per 100 possessions.

The defense also played great for three quarters. New York shot a dismal 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) in the first quarter and a similarly awful 8-for-24 (33.3 percent) in the second. The Knicks were 0-for-5 from three-point range in the first half.

The D was still pretty tough in the fourth, limiting New York to 9-for-22 from the field (40 percent), and the Bulls entered the final quarter with a 22-point lead.

The Bad:
Despite their poor overall shooting in the third quarter, the Knicks did knock down five threes…and that was the first sign of trouble in the form of a defensive letdown. Sure enough, New York blistered the Bulls by shooting 14-for-21 over the final 12 minutes, including 6-for-7 from downtown.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Bulls committed some foolish turnovers and missed four consecutive free throws, which allowed the Knicks to threaten a comeback. Fortunately, Marco Belinelli converted five of six foul shots down the stretch and New York never got closer than five points.

It was a great win, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t like that a) the Knicks pulled down 18 offensive rebounds, b) the Bulls gave up 22 points off 18 turnovers and c) got outscored 41-26 in the final quarter. Especially that last part. The Bulls are too good on defense to let a team score 40+ points in a single quarter. They blinked.

Player of the Game:
Luol Deng. He led the Bulls in scoring by putting up a season-high 33 points. His shot lights out — 13-for-18 overall, 3-for-5 on three-pointers, 4-for-4 from the line — and added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and a blocked shot.

Deng’s 21 first half points helped set the tone of the game…as did his defense on Carmelo Anthony. Although ‘Melo scored a game-high 39 points on 14-for-32 shooting, he was only scored 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting when guarded directly by Deng, per ESPN Stats and Information. By Contrast, Lu scored 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting against Anthony’s defense.

Said Joakim Noah: “Louie! That was an unbelievable performance. He really did his thing out there. What’s great about Louie scoring is it’s all within the system. And he’s been playing great basketball with us all year. And there’s no way we’d be in the position we’re in right now, 20 wins, without Luol Deng. Whether it’s his scoring, his defense, his rebounding. He’s a very versatile player and I love playing with him.”

Added Carlos Boozer: “He was hot and we just kept feeding him. He was on fire. We were trying to get him 40, we got to work on Thibs getting him some more plays. But no, he played great, man. He got us going offensively in the beginning, obviously all throughout the game, but especially in the beginning and helped us get that huge lead. And then he had (to go against Anthony) and did a great job.”

Deng must really like playing against ‘Melo and the Knicks. His previous season high of 29 points happened the last time the Bulls traveled to New York.

Locking Them Down:
Despite letting up in the fourth quarter, the Bulls did a great job clamping down on D. Jason Kidd looked like he had a foot in the grave, finishing with zero points (0-for-6), zero assists and a plus-minus score of -21 in 20 minutes. Tyson Chandler shot 3-for-8 despite attempting all his shots at the rim. J.R. Smith scored only 13 points on 17 shot attempts. And ‘Melo was held in check until that late surge.

Rip Resurrected:
Speaking of appearing to have a foot in the grave. A few nights ago against Milwaukee, Rip was a dismal 2-for-11 and seemed to have pretty much nothing to give. Then he pulled a Lazarus against the Knicks, scoring 14 points in 20 minutes while shooting 6-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line.

Bench Power:
Chicago’s reserves did a solid job. Taj Gibson had a strong offensive game with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, although I was a little disappointed he had only 3 rebounds in 22 minutes. His rebounding percentages are all at career-lows and I’m not sure why he’s not cleaning the glass the way he used to. At least he’s shooting better. Taj is shooting 65 percent this months after shooting in the low to mid-40s for most of the season.

The Bulls also received decent minutes from Belinelli (12 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) and Nate Robinson managed 5 points and a plus-minus score of +5 in 10 minutes.

Beyond Thunderdome:
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, the Bulls have gone all Mad Max on the NBA, becoming the league’s premier road warriors.

Chicago is tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the best overall road record at 10-5. The Bulls are 8-1 on the road against Eastern Conference Teams, including road wins over the Knicks and defending champion Miami Heat.

Friedell writes: “Over the past three seasons — the Tom Thibodeau era — no team has more road wins than the Bulls. They are on pace to become the first team to win more than 60 percent of their road games in three straight seasons since the defensive juggernaut Boston Celtics did it from 2007 to ’10.”

That’s what playing lock down defense and going all out every night will do for a team.

Dunk of the Night:
Carlos Boozer didn’t shoot well (6-for-14), but he scored 17 points and threw down a vicious dunk on Anthony:

Tough Talk:
Regarding New York’s 0-3 record against the Bulls this season, Anthony said: “They beat us three times. At this point, it is onto the next one. We are not worried about Chicago at this point. They do what they do and we will see them again.”

If ‘Melo isn’t worried…he should be. Despite his team’s fast start to the season and Chicago’s slow start, the Bulls (20-14) aren’t that far behind the Knicks (23-13) in terms of wins and losses. Not only that, but the Bulls have twice charged into Madison Square Garden and built a huge lead before holding on in the fourth. And despite being one of the best scoring teams in the NBA, the Knicks have plummeted to 20th in Defensive Rating, according to Basketball-Reference.

If those aren’t causes for concern, I don’t know what would be.

More Tough Talk:
Robinson responded to his only three-pointer of the game by mimicking the Discount Double Check celebration made popular by Aaron Rodgers of the Green By Packers. This apparently got under the skin of New York’s Steve Novak, a Packers fan who makes the same celebratory gesture after made threes.

Said Novak: “It warms my heart, it really does. The best part about doing the belt is hearing the stories of all the little kids around the world that hit a 3-pointer and do the belt. You know, one day when little Nathan grows up, I hope that his dreams come true and he can be just like me … someday I hope that little Nathan can grow up and all of his dreams can come true and he can be just like me … it was extremely heartwarming.”

Just more sour grapes from a frustrated team.

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