Unfortunately, this game was a letdown. Coming off the thriller on Sunday, this was a much anticipated game. A playoff like atmosphere was expected and high level play was what we all thought we’d see…what transpired was anything but that. Both teams played ugly basketball, but the Bulls made more plays, ran better offense and dominated the boards, allowing them to control this poorly played game.
Transition and secondary break offense is a must…for the Knicks to score consistently against good defensive teams (I’m sorry, I’ve been saying this all year). The Knicks came out a little sluggish on defense and the Bulls went up 10-2 quickly. Whenever the Bulls scored, they were able to set up their half-court defense. Early in the game, the Knicks were unable to get the ball in the paint via the pass or the dribble against the Bulls half-court defense and settled for contested jumpers. However, the Knicks stepped up the energy on defense, harassed ball handlers and were able to get a ton of deflections (forced 9 TOS in 1st half). The Knicks took the Bulls out of rhythm on offense. This allowed the Knicks to get out in transition. They went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-10 lead. All nine points came off transition offense. Seven of those points on jumpers from Melo which were created by pushing it up and quick reversals in their secondary break. This trend continued throughout the 1st quarter…solid defense, igniting their offense. They held the Bulls to 43% shooting for the quarter and went on to make 10/11 FGs during a stretch late in the quarter (Knicks shot 58% in the 1st).
The rest of the game was a different story. Great teams respond when things get tough, and the Bulls did that. The Bulls took control in the second quarter putting together a 17-2 run. The Knicks second unit was very poor on the defensive end. They lacked energy and were unable to handle screens off the ball (which has been a problem for this team all year.) The Bulls continually were able to get open looks and paint touches. Additionally, when the Bulls missed shots they dominated the glass (+12 in the first half, with nine OREBs). Again, when they couldn’t stop the Bulls (59% FG in 2nd quarter) their offense suffered greatly (4/21 FGs in the 2nd quarter). The second unit was anemic on offense all game (with the exception of JR Smith). When the starters came back in late in the 2nd, it still didn’t matter. They were completely out of sync.
The Knicks started the 3rd quarter strong on a 10-2 run. Then, RIP Hamilton came to life and just took over (18pts in the 3rd). We all know he’s one of the best ever at using screens. This has been a problem for the Knicks all year. Deron Williams, Kyle Korver (again tonight) and others have abused them on off the ball screens. The Knicks continued to try and go under the screen unsuccessfully (regardless of who was guarding him, it happened continually). As a shooter, I used to love when guys went under on screens. Immediately you know…I’m fading…push off your screener…he’ll change the angle of the screen…and I’m open. Now I can either knockdown this shot or I’m in a close out situation. I can get by my man and get in the lane. RIP continually dictated to the defense what was happening. He got open shots, finished in the lane or forced help and created for teammates. This was the same story in the 4th quarter, but it was Korver a lot of times helping generate offense by coming off screens.
Every team has these games. Unfortunately, games like this, where you just can’t do anything right, come at big times in the season. The bench was terrible (outscored 33-18). They were dominated on the glass (-18, allowed 18 OREBs) which resulted in 25 second chance points for the Bulls. They had 16 turnovers, many of them unforced. At least the Bulls played poorly too which allowed the Knicks to still compete. The lone bright spot was Melo’s play. He was the only guy that played well (Smith had a few flashes). Other than Melo, everyone was bad…not just off but bad.
These games are odd, you know what is wrong but you just can’t right the ship. A lot of times you start pressing and things just get worse. I hope that the fans take this loss worse than the team does. We wanted so bad to see them beat the Bulls again, not regress in the standings and feel like they could battle the best in the East in a seven game series. I think the team will look at it as just a bad game, move on to tomorrow and beat the Bucks in an even bigger game as it relates to just getting the opportunity to battle the best in the East in a seven game series.