We competed tonight. It says a lot for our club. Now I just need to do a better job getting us through down the stretch. – Mike Woodson
After being dead in the waterfor the most of the game, a Knicks 12-0 run in the fourth quarter allowed them to storm back for a two point lead. But several bad possessions and a missed free throw from Tyson Chandler gave the opening the Bulls needed, as Derrick Rose hit a tough floater to defeat the Knicks 82-81 in the Bulls home-opener.
It was tough loss to swallow, especially considering this is the fifth straight time the Bulls had defeated the Knicks. However, New York showed flashes on succint execution and had a mental toughness to them that was lacking from last year’s squad. Had this been last season, this game would have turned into a blowout in the third quarter, when the Bulls went up by as much as 13 points. Onto the game’s highlights.
FIRST HALF UGLINESS: We know the Bulls pride themselves on defense and that made for an ugly first half of basketball as New York was relegated to contested jumpers. There were repeated bad passes leading to Bulls fast breaks and stupid fouls. Andrea Bargnani, in the span of a few minutes, had 3 offensive fouls. Iman Shumpert also got in three fouls. 13 first half turnovers is normally a death knell, but the Bulls lack of offensive weapons allowed New York to remain close even with just 33 points in 24 minutes.
BARGNANI SHOWS LIFE: After having an abysmal first half, Bargnani came to life in the second hitting multiple jumpers. This was crucial in helping to spread the floor. If the Knicks hope to do any serious damage, Bargnani has to keep hitting those shots.
CHANDLER ON FIRE: Tyson Chandler had an excellent game with 7 points, 19 rebounds, and 4 blocks. He gave our team numerous chances late to pull away, but our offense failed his effort. If he can stay healthy and keep up this intensity, the team will be in good shape. Problem is, the man needs help down low, and Amar’e and Bargnani aren’t the answer.
Some have harped on the missed free throw, but I can’t disparage the man’s performance last night. That free throw was not the sole reason we lost the game — lack of offensive execution in the last two minutes is what did us in.
STAR SLUMP: Neither of the stars of this game, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, shot the ball particularly well. Melo went 8-24 (22 points) while Rose shot 7-23 (18 points). But with Rose, all that is forgiven in light on his game-winner. Melo said he got the look he wanted, but I’m not a fan of long jumpshots to win games. Yes, he can hit them (and has), but a quick drive and pull-up was a better percentage shot. Using Rose as an example, he was able to get close to the paint in the same amount of time for his shot. Of couse, Melo isn’t as quick, but he could have got to the to the free throw line at least.
COMEBACK AND LATE EXECUTION: With a little less than 8 minutes remaining, the Knicks were down 66-76. Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited a 12-0 run starting with a three-pointer. Felton hit a three, Melo connected with a short jumper, and a Shumpert offensive reobund and putback dunk put the Knicks in front.
From there it all went bad, as the Knicks offense degraded into Melo isolations. This wasn’t the plan, but Felton’s pick n’ roll attempts were turned back by Chicago as well as the screen attempts. Several possessions that could have given the Knicks breathing room ended with the ball being dumped to Carmelo with less than 8 seconds on the shot clock.
NO PANIC: The loss sucks, but help is coming. JR Smith has three games left on his suspension, and Hardaway Jr. is making a great case to keep up his playing time. The team has the weapons and I’m confident we’ll see a dynamic aquad by mid-season barring injuries.