Bulls' fourth quarter rally falls short, fall to Knicks 109-104

It's often said New York is a great place to visit, and understandably thanks to the amazing culture like the Metropolitan Museum of Subway Smells, the Museum of Modern Phlegm Design and the What Are You Looking at Collection.

It wasn't so appealing Monday, however, to the Bulls in a 109-104 defeat to a Knicks team playing the second of a back to back, still five games out of 10th place in the Eastern Conference and featuring what seems like an alien pod identical to Julius Randle.

It really was only a good night for a slice a soda.

Talk about fizzling out and getting sliced up.

I'll get to it, though since it's a loss let me get to my Yogi Berra pizza line first. So Yogi is asked does he want the pizza cut in six pieces or eight. "I'm hungry today," he says, "make it eight."

The Bulls made it 12 early, a 12-point lead second quarter lead as they got off fast and smooth again. And then they rallied from 10 points behind in the fourth quarter with three late chances to tie or go ahead. But then missed each attempt and gave up a crucial three pointer with 23 seconds left that dropped the Bulls at 43-32 into a fifth place tie with Toronto. Both teams are three and a half games out of fourth with seven games remaining.

So like Yogi said, when you come to a fork in the road take it.

The Bulls are just about there.

"We had an opportunity tonight to keep it going," said DeMar DeRozan, who led the Bulls with 37 points. "We dropped this one, so sucks, frustrating. We've got to let it be frustrating and take it out on Washington (Tuesday). Can't dwell on it. Get ready and get this feeling off us.

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 37 points on 12-of-26 shooting against the Knicks.

"We can score the ball with the best of ‘em," DeRozan reiterated. "It's on us to be locked in defensively. We gave up 109 points and we felt like we played terrible defensively. We've got to be conscious of understanding we have to rely defensively. I've got to do a better job, all of us; it starts with myself, Zach (LaVine with 27 points), Vooch (Nikola Vucevic with 16 points and 13 rebounds), AC (Alex Caruso). We just have too many lapses. We felt we could do better and we will. I'm confident we're going to pull through."

And so the Bulls march through March and to the playoffs, less a Bulls run than staggering as they still sort through rotations in losing 11 of 16 since the All-Star break. Bulls coach Billy Donovan is working in Patrick Williams, who played 13 minutes without a shot attempt in his fifth game back since missing most of the season with wrist surgery.

"Honestly, I don't feel too bad," Williams insisted. "Physically, the conditioning is still getting there. It feels like it's the fifth game of the season for me. This is the first (time) I feel healthy this season. It's (the game) not moving too fast; it's a lot slower than it was last year. My job is to be ready whenever my name is called. I think I can do a better job of that. I have to defend better, be better when I'm out there. I can be better defensively, running the floor and rebounding. That's on me."

I can't see faulting Williams. It's asking a lot to bring back a 20-year-old after he missed all season to start up against teams like the Knicks, who are playing desperately for the play-in tournament.

It's not Thibodeau's Knicks, though he's still the coach. With the departure of Kemba Walker, injuries to Cam Reddish and Nerlens Noel and absence of Derrick Rose and Randle, it's now primarily a young team that plays fast, shoots a lot of what-the-heck-was-that threes and isn't particularly good defensively. But they have tall people, which again hurt the guard-oriented Bulls. Though the Bulls do battle and were about even in rebounding, the Knicks led by Mitchell Robinson got 13 offensive rebounds and 20 second chance points.

And, oh yeah, Randle. He did have 13 rebounds, and guys have bad offensive games. He's been booed in New York, which is sort of a redundancy, though you want to give him a hug. He almost looks scared to play. He'll have to fall back on that maximum contract extension he got last year.

Alec Burks had 27 points and that killer three in the last seconds. R.J. Barrett led the Knicks with 28 points, and you maybe got hoarse screaming, "He's left handed," as the Bulls seemed to keep shading him to his right hand. It does happen. No one really ever seemed to figure out Manu Ginobili was left handed.

But the elephant in the room for the Bulls—and I wish I could think of a better idiom, but geranium doesn't grow on you—may be the heavy isolation offensive play that has been both the best thing they've done and not so much when they lose.

In the first quarter, every starter got between two and four shots attempts and the Bulls had eight assists on 12 shot attempts and took a 28-17 lead, 28-24 at the end of the quarter. But then DeRozan took over the ball... and the Bulls extended the lead, DeRozan scoring nine of the first 11 points of the second quarter and his miss leading to an offensive rebound and the other basket as the Bulls took their biggest lead of the game at 39-27.

The Knicks after missing seven of their first eight threes got a pair from Obi Toppin, and it was a game from there.

"I actually thought we were pretty good offensively," said Donovan. "The (10) turnovers in the first half hurt us. I like the shots we got. I didn't think we shot the ball particularly well, especially from the three-point line (six for 23). Their offensive rebounding and our turnovers, and Toppin made some threes that got their momentum back. Their points on second chance points and off our turnovers in a low scoring game was pretty impactful."

Tap to listen to postgame reaction from Billy Donovan following Chicago's loss to New York.

The Knicks grabbed a 53-50 halftime lead with a 22-6 run that extended deep into the second quarter as Donovan again fiddled with the rotation. Ayo Dosunmu started at point guard again and played 36 minutes. He may have tired legs as he gives up a lot of penetration. So DeRozan got almost 42 minutes at power forward against a huge Knicks front line, Caruso trying to defend bigs like Toppin. Donovan gave Williams a look, but had to come back late with Javonte Green.

"Him getting his legs back under him is something he's going to have to catchup on," Donovan agreed as he hopes to have Williams at a regular season level by the playoffs. "In that second quarter when we had some missed shots and went cold and missed opportunities and had some turnovers and they made a run and got back in, we've got to be able to move past that stuff from a competitive emotional standpoint. There are times we get down on ourselves when we make mistakes. I'm not saying Patrick was down on himself, but he's got to move past (the mistakes). I do think he's getting his legs and footing, but he's going to have to get his legs back under him to be a little more aggressive."

The Knicks jumped on the Bulls to start the second half to wrestle away control of the game and Thibodeau, as most coaches have lately, moved to more trapping and doubling on DeRozan as much as he hates to do that. The Knicks surged to a 13-point lead early in the third quarter and held on to an 81-75 advantage going into the fourth as the Bulls went Knicks-cold from three.

But then came the dilemma.

The Bulls got back in the game going almost exclusively to DeRozan, DeRozan back at the free throw line with the young Knicks jumping all over the place at his pump fakes and Knicks support staff picking up the pieces of Thibodeau's head in the mezzanine. DeRozan made all 12 of his free throws, and LaVine was nine of 10 as the Bulls got 33 attempts. The Knicks stood around their line for 35, though missing 14.

It actually was the Bulls formula that worked so well earlier in the season and had the Bulls in first place leading up to the All-Star break and one of the biggest pleasant surprise stories of the season, DeMar in the fourth and marching to the free throw line.

So why change?

Tap to watch full game highlights from Chicago's 109-104 loss in the Garden on Monday night.

DeRozan played the entire fourth quarter Monday and scored 15 points and the Bulls shot 53 percent for the quarter. The Bulls had six assists on 15 second half scores.

And almost pulled out the game.

They cut into the Knicks 89-79 lead with a DeRozan three-point play, a short jumper and a driving scoop. LaVine took over with a strong drive. DeRozan did find Dosunmu for a corner three, and Vucevic scored on a post up before another DeRozan three-point play made it 99-98 Knicks with 3:38 left.

DeRozan then was long on a 20 footer for the lead before Mitchell Robinson finished when Immanuel Quickley got into the lane and passed. After LaVine scored again, Barrett was fouled and missed one of two free throws, LaVine rolled a ball off the rim on a drive when DeRozan was doubled. Barrett then was fouled and made both for a 104-100 Knicks lead. Then DeRozan called for a screen from Green to get Randle in the switch and predictably drew the foul for a three-point play to get within 104-103 with 1:17 left. But after a Barrett miss (the Knicks isolate a lot, also) DeRozan came up short and wide on a 16 footer for the lead.

Burks then made that three for the broadcaster two possession 107-103 New York lead with 23.2 seconds left before DeRozan was called for an offensive foul. Though bumping into someone just seems like a way of life in New York.

"For everybody on the team, it's going to take that one moment," said DeRozan, "that one game for everything to start clicking and that could happen any game now."