BULLet Points: Bulls drop critical home game against Knicks

A 115-107 loss to the Knicks at the United Center on Wednesday moved the Bulls to 36-34, and a game behind the Pistons, who currently hold the last playoff spot. With just a few weeks of the regular season remaining, the Bulls badly need to capitalize on a chance to at least sneak into the playoffs, though it could be argued that they are not sitting in an advantageous spot no matter what happens in these next few weeks, and maybe missing the playoffs is better for them in the long run. Let’s take a look at how last night’s game played out, and what ultimately led to the loss:

  • I don’t know that this is a trend per se, but the third quarter was the dagger in this game. This is something that has popped up more than once for the Bulls, and was ultimately too much to overcome last night. They shot poorly, scoring just 18 points and getting killed in the paint. In the third quarter alone, they missed eight scoring opportunities just in the paint, while allowing the Knicks to go 5/7 from three point range. New York ended up scoring nearly twice as many points, and it would be too wide of a gap for the Bulls to narrow in the fourth, even though they outscored the Knicks 34-23.
  • In general, the Knicks had a quality shooting night, going nearly 52% from the field, but it was their 56% three point shooting that helped seal this one for them. After the game, Carmelo Anthony gave us a tease of what could have been if he came to Chicago, and he was mentioned as a possible member of a one day “super team” that is the mastermind of LeBron James. Keep an eye out for The Decision: Part 3 sometime soon. Nick Friedell had this from Anthony after the game:
  •  I hadn’t seen much of Kristaps Porzingis firsthand, so even as he was killing my team, it was fun to appreciate his 29 point, 10 rebound performance.
  • The Bulls were essentially at full strength last night, with their regular lineup and prolific scoring from Nikola Mirotic, who led the team with 35 points and grabbed 6 rebounds along the way. Derrick Rose turned in a nice 21 points and four assists. Rose has quietly put together a fairly respectable season this year.
  • I was impressed at the way that Jimmy Butler found a way to contribute, even as he wasn’t shooting well, going 3/11 from the field last night and scoring just seven points. He still managed a team leading eight assists and grabbed three rebounds. Butler didn’t commit a turnover, either. On a night when his shooting is better, he’d have been the star of the game. Butler, of course, doesn’t feel the same, and hasn’t been satisfied lately with his own performance:
  •  I’m perhaps a bit too forgiving of what he’s done lately, but I think there’s been value in how he’s done on the court, even without the scoring that we are used to.
  • In general, I wonder about fatigue and the quality of defense with this team. The deep roster that used to be a Bulls cornerstone isn’t there anymore, and with injuries to key players that keep popping up, it looks at times as though they are just gassed. It’s hard to find the same motivation as the beginning of the season, I’m sure, and the waning weeks of this year might just be a labor of love at this point. With just 12 regular season games left, their sights have to be set on where the team goes from here. That said, giving up over 100 points on even a somewhat regular basis is not something we’ve been used to seeing from this team for a while.
  • In an effort to find a positive in last night’s game, the Bulls did not give up a turnover in the first half, and ended up with just six for the night. Somehow, they were still down by two points at halftime. They staged that fourth quarter comeback, but it wasn’t enough.
  • Coming up: the Bulls actually head to New York for a rematch with the Knicks tonight.

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