The Bulls Friday made it a happy start to the new year with an impressive 108-81 victory over the New York Knickerbockers.
The Bulls started fast and strong, ahead 20-4 before the Knicks gathered themselves and actually took a brief lead in the third quarter. But the Bulls with the aggressive fourth quarter play of Nikola Mirotic and the shooting of Doug McDermott dominated the Knicks down the stretch. The Bulls closed the game on a 24-4 run.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls, 19-12, with 23 points. Mirotic had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds, Pau Gasol had 17 points, Bobby Portis had 16 points and 10 rebounds and McDermott 13 points. The Bulls were 10 of 16 on three pointers with four from Mirotic and three from McDermott. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 20 points.
The Bulls went for the second straight win without Derrick Rose, resting with hamstring soreness. Though perhaps more inspiration came from the 16-point loss in New York just before Christmas. It was after that game Butler commented on coach Fred Hoiberg’s style. The Bulls style Friday from the start was vengeful, an 11-0 lead as the Knicks didn’t score until about four minutes in and missed their first 10 shots. The Bulls had plenty to do with that, pressuring up on the passing lanes and defensively and strong on the boards. Nikola Mirotic made three three pointers for 11 first quarter points as the Bulls took a 34-18 lead.
The Knicks pulled within 39-29 early in the second quarter against the reserves, but Aaron Brooks and Bobby Portis answered with threes along with some slick Gasol inside moves and the Bulls went back ahead 50-33 with about five minutes remaining in the half. But the Knicks continued to move the ball and got threes from Jose Calderon, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony to pull within 56-50 at halftime.
The Bulls started the half fast for a 60-50 lead. The Knicks called a quick timeout and the Bulls stalled this time with the starters. The Knicks passed them at 67-66 on the ball movement and shooting of Calderon. The Bulls did respond with some fast paced play out of the backcourt with E’Twaun Moore playing as Aaron Brooks had foul trouble in place of Rose. Portis added a three and the Bulls went into the fourth quarter leading 77-73. The Bulls again started a quarter well, 5-0 for a Knicks timeout as the Bulls went ahead 82-73 with 9:49 left.
Which was just the beginning as Hoiberg patched together a lineup of Mirotic, Portis, Moore and McDermott with Butler and they smothered the Knicks on defense and pushed the ball out in transition for a 19-4 run that gave the Bulls a runaway 103-81 lead with under four minutes left and the Knicks began to empty the bench.