It may have been a different opponent and location. Subsequently, Monday night’s performance against Chicago at the United Center was a repeat of what New York Knicks fans have seen before. Tom Thibodeau’s squad was a step behind all night against a team they had a legitimate chance to defeat. The Bulls (8-11) took advantage and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 110-102 victory.
Even though the Knicks (9-13) have wins against the likes of Milwaukee, Boston and Utah, and even after standing toe to toe against the title contending Los Angeles Clippers a day earlier, these are the games that frustrate Thibodeau and the Knicks faithful. The effort against a mediocre Chicago team looked eerily similar to games against Oklahoma and Sacramento. New York typically struggles to score consistently, but in this contest it was their usually solid defense that failed them at key moments.
“Just not the effort that we’re capable of,’’ Thibodeau said. “I know that we have the makings of a very good defensive team and it’s when we’re concentrating and we’re giving maximum effort, we’re usually pretty good. Just using the timeout, trying to fix it.”
Lauri Markkanen provided the Bulls with the edge they needed with an outstanding shooting display. Markkanen scored a game-high 30 points. The Finnish big man knocked down six three-pointers, mainly in the first half where he finished with 23 points. He connected on the same amount of shots from behind the arc as the entire Knicks team.
Chicago led by as much as 11 in the first half. They led 32-27 at the end of the first quarter, and 59-55 at the half. There were several moments where it looked like the Bulls would blow the game open. Bill Donovan’s charges garnered another 11 point lead in the third. However, the Knicks did just enough to stay within striking distance.
Three-point shooting was yet again a large part of New York’s demise. The Knicks, the worst shooting team in the league from long range, were just 6-for-29 for 20.7%. Five of the six Knicks treys came from Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks off the bench.
Thibodeau refused to blame the loss on the Knicks shooting woes.
“I thought we had some good looks at the bucket,’’ Thibodeau said. “They didn’t go down for us. We have to count on our defense.’’
Similarly, the Bulls weren’t very efficient from three-point range either. Quickley gave the Knicks their first lead since early in the first quarter with a 30-foot bomb with 3:00 minutes to play at 95-84. With Chicago leading 100-97, Burks tied the game with a three with a minute to go. Coby White, who struggled shooting all night, nailed a corner three-pointer to give Chicago the lead back.
LaVine contributed 21 points for Chicago. White and Thaddeus Young chipped in 13 apiece.
Randle led New York with 23 points and 11 boards. Burks finished with 18 points and Quickley 16.
The teams will go right back at it Wednesday night at the United Center as the Knicks look to get even. It could have the feel of a must-win game for New York who then returns home with back-to-back games against Portland and Miami this weekend.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)