The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls locked horns in brutally ugly game of basketball, with Chicago emerging victorious on a last-second, highly contested Derrick Rose floater. Both teams were incredibly sloppy throughout the night, with Rose forcing things far too much and Chicago suffering through some woeful outside shooting. Meanwhile, the Knicks threw away possessions with broken offensive sets and costly turnovers. It wasn’t a pretty game, but the Knicks hung in tough and they may have learned a few things in the process.
The key storyline heading into the game was inside scoring, and Chicago dominated that category early on. At the end of the first quarter, Chicago had more points in the paint than the Knicks had total points. Ouch. The Knicks certainly didn’t make things any easier, as they coughed up the ball six times in the first quarter. Their “big” lineup struggled to generate any sort of playmaking.
Andrea Bargnani got his jumper to fall a few times in the second quarter, but he seemed out of place all night otherwise. He was brought to the team to be a “stretch 4”, but his presence doesn’t provide as much spacing as they’d hoped. Part of it is because his three point stroke seems to have eluded him lately (it actually looks slower and more laborious than earlier in his career), but it’s also partly because he has a tendency to wander around in the mid-range area while his teammates attempt to drive to the hoop rather than stepping out to the three-point line to receive passes. He also only managed one rebound in 25 minutes of play. Often, the lack of passing lanes forced Knicks stuck in tight quarters to throw horrible cross-court passes that were easily picked off by the long, athletic Bulls’ wings.
In the second half, the Knicks did a much better job taking care of the ball and they started to feature smaller lineups more frequently. The Raymond Felton-Tim Hardaway Jr.-Iman Shumpert-Carmelo Anthony-Tyson Chandler lineup hustled like crazy and brought the Knicks back into the game late. Hardaway Jr. finished just 4-for-13 from the field, but he hit two big threes, played with great confidence and showed a great understanding of when to run the floor.
The Knicks were also much improved on defense in the second half, holding the Bulls to just two made field goals in the entire fourth quarter (and just 11 points). The Knicks walled off the paint, daring the Bulls to shoot from deep and Chicago just plain couldn’t connect from outside, finishing just 3-for-16 on three-point attempts. Felton did a surprisingly good job staying with Rose when he was assigned to him, although he benefited from Rose being a little bit out of rhythm and pressing a bit too hard to get to the rim.
Tyson Chandler was the best player on the floor all game for either team. He collected a whopping 19 rebounds (eight offensive) and repeatedly kept plays alive with timely tip-outs to Knick guards when the offense was sputtering down the stretch. He was also a monster on defense, spiking four shots into the ground while covering for perimeter defenders’ mistakes by jumping straight up to contest shots without fouling. The man was like a brick wall out there and he was the reason New York’s small lineup was able to play defense the way it did. He looked like Defensive Player of the Year Chandler from 2011-12, which is great news for the Knicks.
While the loss may have come in heartbreaking fashion in the last minute and the Knicks made plenty of infuriating mistakes, it’s hard to feel too bad about barely losing on the road to a very tough Bulls team, especially considering Tyson Chandler’s dominance and the promise shown by Tim Hardaway Jr.