The Knicks were not able to beat the best team in the league for a second game in a row as they lost to the Bulls, 98-86, and now only have a one game lead over the Bucks for eighth place. They play the Bucks tonight in Milwaukee.
Derrick Rose did not play because of an ankle injury, after missing 12 games because of a groin injury, but the Bulls have gone 8-4 without last year’s MVP.
Going into the three game stretch against the Magic and Bulls it seemed like the best case scenario would be winning two out of three games and that is exactly what the Knicks did. They defeated the Magic (34-23, 6th seed), who are 4-6 in their last 10 games, as well as the Bulls at MSG, who have two more wins than the Thunder for most in the league.
Carmelo Anthony stepped up once again, continuing his dominance under Woodson, as he scored 29 points (11-19), had five assists and four steals. However, Mobb Deep, as the Knicks bench has been called over the last two weeks, did not perform the way they have over the last 14 games.
They combined to score 18 points, but JR Smith scored 14 by himself. He had a few turnovers that he would like to have back and had a -20 for the game. His scoring will be needed over the final nine games since when he is taking quality shots (as well as hustling and rebounding) he can be very valuable.
One player that needs to get back on track is Steve Novak. He is still the most accurate 3-point shooter in the NBA, but over the last two games he has missed his last eight shots including his last seven 3’s. Shooters sometimes go through slumps for a few games, but if he continue pump faking to get the open jumper his shots should start to go in. He will be having a homecoming when the Knicks play in Milwaukee so the Knicks will need him to return to form.
The Knicks did not start off the game with good ball movement as they missed their first six shots. They did not play tenacious defense in the first few minutes leading to an 8-0 Bulls lead, as Woodson was forced to call an early timeout.
However, the Knicks came back into the game in a hurry as Fields made a corner jumper and Melo scored five quick points on consecutive possessions. They would make five of six shots to go on a 9-0 run to take a brief 11-10 lead.
Davis had four early assists as he had a perfect pass that led to a dunk by Melo on the fast break, to give them a 20-17 lead. Melo came to the rescue once again as he swiped the ball numerous times and helped the Knicks take the lead. Melo would also hit five consecutive shots after missing his first one.
The Knicks were winning by three, 25-22, at the end of the first, as Baron Davis had a few careless turnovers in the last minute. They went through a stretch in the second where they did not score for five minutes because nobody besides their star stepped up.
Davis had a few early assists, but only ended the game with four, in addition to continuing his shooting slump as he shot 1-7. The Bulls are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but he will need to score more than two points as the Knicks try and finish with the seventh or eighth seed.
Novak missed two 3’s in the span of a minute as the Knicks tried to erase a 10-point Bulls lead. With four minutes left in the second quarter the Knicks had only scored three points and shot 1-14 from the field. They committed too many turnovers, did not go to the basket enough and did not have enough ball movement.
The Knicks shot 4-21 leading to only putting 10 points on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Melo was the only Knick with the knack in the first half as he scored 14 points, but nobody else scored more than seven. He shot 6-10 in the first half, but the team as a whole shot only 38 percent helping the Bulls take a 47-35 lead.
The Bulls shot 48 percent and pulled down 26 rebounds to only 14 for the Knicks. 10 players scored in the first half for the Bulls led by Luol Deng who contributed 10.
Tyson Chandler proved how valuable his hustle is as he stole the ball as the Bulls were about to drive up the court and passed it to Melo for an easy lay-up. This helped pull the Knicks to within five points. Chandler’s intensity on the defensive end has helped the Knicks be a feared team on that end of the court and he should finish with the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The Knicks were only down nine, 69-60, but after Jeffries got a defensive rebound he made a horrible pass right to the Bulls helping them easily get two more points.
A sequence that was a dagger for the Knicks came with about 6:30 remaining in the game. With the Knicks down by 10 JR Smith made a pass to nobody on his team leading to a steal by the Bulls and then Korver hustled harder to a loose ball on the other end before passing to Boozer for the slam.
As was expected, the Bulls used their trademark hustle on both ends of the court and the Knicks were not able to do so in Chicago. Rip Hamilton dominated the Knicks many times while he played for the Pistons and tonight was not any different. He scored 20 points, with his excellent mid-range jumper, and has five assists and four rebounds. Chicago’s bench was led by Korver who made three 3’s on his way to 14 points.
The Knicks will need to improve their 3-point shooting percentage as they only made 33 percent of their shots from long range. Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert have been producing from long distance recently and they both had off games. Shump, who had his parents and brothers in the stands, did not score or help the team across the board like he has been as a starter. He made two out of his three 3’s, but did not have any steals and only had one rebound and 12 points. Shump still played hard on the defensive end as he is probably the best defender out of any rookie.
A few days ago, Brandon Jennings said that the Bucks will definitely not get blown out by the Knicks, so Melo should get the team to use that as motivation to play with fire and desire early, so that they can prove who is the better team from start to finish.