The New York Knicks Wednesday put a deep nick in the Bulls playoff chances in a 115-107 victory over the Bulls.
The Bulls, outplayed badly through three quarters and trailing by 22 points with about nine minutes left, rallied to within eight points in a desperate late charge on the shooting of Nikola Mirotic with five of his nine three pointers in the fourth quarter.
But after pulling within 112-104 with 2:16 left on three Mirotic free throws, the Bulls, finally hustling on defense, could not hit and the Knicks escaped.
The Knicks are 29-43. The Bulls fell to 36-34 and out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with Detroit’s win.
Mirotic led the Bulls with a career high 35 points. Derrick Rose had 21 points. The Knicks held a huge 53-34 edge in rebounding as rookie Kristaps Porzingis had 29 points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks were 14 of 25 on threes and shot 51.7 percent overall.
The Bulls had their starting five for a record—for this season—second straight game, though with an uncertain start after the Knicks were accurate early with their shooting. Porzingis found the range early as the Bulls gave him plenty of room. The Knicks opened up 12-7 before Rose began hurtling toward the basket for a pair of scoring drives with a three-point play to even the score. Rose had eight in eight minutes, though Jimmy Butler continued to struggle early as coach Fred Hoiberg said pregame Butler had body soreness. Butler had an early substitution with about five minutes left in the first quarter and the score tied at 19. The reserves, who had struggled lately, had a good run to close the quarter with inside play from Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks threes for a 30-23 Bulls lead after one.
Porzingis continued his hot shooting to open the second quarter and with 17 in the first half that enabled the Knicks to make up the deficit immediately and take a 35-34 lead about four minutes into the second quarter. The Bulls then eased ahead in the back and forth first half with back to back Mirotic threes for a 42-39 lead midway through the quarter. The Bulls have an ugly habit of helping into the paint off the weak side for seemingly no reason and the Knicks took advantage with ball movement and open threes to go back ahead 52-48 with two minutes left in the half. The Knicks led 57-55 after making seven of 11 threes in the first half.
The Knicks with much less to play for continued to be the more physical team, beating the Bulls to offensive rebounds and getting deep position on offense. Their spirited play enabled them to take a 65-58 lead four minutes into the third quarter. And then it got worse as through three quarters the Knicks had a staggering 44-22 advantage in rebounding against a Bulls team second in total rebounds per game. The Knicks were 12 of 18 on threes through three quarters as they outscored the Bulls 35-18 in the third quarter to take a 92-73 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Knicks shot 62 percent in the third to 32 percent for the Bulls with an amazing 17-5 rebounding advantage. The Knicks, 26th in the league in scoring at 98.5 per game, passed 100 with just over nine minutes left in the game. Mirotic made four threes in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks continued to match every basket and still led 103-87 with 7:58 remaining. But the Bulls did keep coming, or just start as they finally got some pace on offense and got within 105-93 with 5:10 left after a Rose runner.