The Knicks get out-hustled by the 5–20 Bulls in Chicago as road losses mount up, this time a close 104–102 game.

Following an impressive team win by the Knickerbockers over the Grizzlies, the Knicks headed to Chicago on a Saturday night to match up against the worst team in the league with a 4-20 record. The game was a familiar sight for the Knicks, as they would be taking on their former players Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and Justin Holiday.

The Knicks came out sluggish in the first quarter against the Bulls, as Chicago started the game on an 11-4 run. That slow energy carried over through the rest of the first for the Knicks, who were outscored 27–18 in the opening frame, in which the ‘Bockers shot just 7-of-23 from the field.

New York lackadaisically trotted up the floor after defensive rebounds, lazily tossed passes into the post, and didn’t close out hard on three-point shooters.

The offense was stagnant and predictable from the start:

The matchup of the game featured Porzingis facing off against rookie Lauri Markkanen, who got the better of the Latvian in the first quarter. The seven-foot rookie from Finland forced Porzingis into a few tough shots, including one that bounced almost off the top of the backboard. He started the game 2-of-8 from the field and was blocked twice in the first half. Rumored to be Porzingis’s potential replacement were Phil Jackson to have traded him leading up to the 2017 draft, Markkanen torched KP to the tune of 11 points in the first half. Speaking on Markkanen’s early play before the game, Porzingis had high praise, saying, “He’s had a great year so far. … He’s actually much stronger than I was when I came into the league…more NBA-ready.”

The second quarter continued much the same as the first. The Bulls were getting into the paint easily, chopping up the Knicks’ D in the second, though they were not able to capitalize, missing four free-throws in a row at one point.

The Knicks, however, ended the half on a 7-0 run to bring the game within just five points to go into the half down only 49-44, despite their lackluster effort. New York spent too much time trying to get the ball into KP’s hands in the first half. Associate Head Coach Kurt Rambis commented after the half that the team needed to find him in motion, coming off screens and finding his shots within the flow of the offense.

Kristaps did get some good looks curling around screens by the elbows in the third quarter, one leading to a dunk, and one leading to an open three-pointer by Lance Thomas (missed). Kristaps would finish the game with 23 points on 10-of-25 shooting from the field after his slow start.


Knicks came out with a different energy in the second half, catalyzed by co-captain Lance Thomas. Early in the third, he got a steal leading to an easy bucket. He soon took a charge against a driving Kris Dunn and gave some good general energy on the defensive end, hustling hard after rebounds and getting in the passing lanes. The whole Knicks team took cues from Thomas and picked up the defensive intensity, even showing full court pressure at one point.

The Bulls, however, matched the Knicks’ intensity, sticking like glue to players trying to run their sets in the fourth quarter.

David Nwaba played like a man possessed, penetrating inside with ease in the fourth quarter as the Knicks started to take their foot off the gas a bit. Nikola Mirotic also poured in 19 points on the back of five triples on the night.

It seemed as if the game was starting to slip away from the Knicks with three consecutive turnovers with just a few minutes left in the fourth. Knicks trailed by 10 with under two minutes remaining but then proceeded to go on a 10-0 run to tie up the game.

Courtney Lee didn’t look his rejuvenated self early this game. In the last nine games, he shot 61 percent but started out tonight 1-for-9 from the field. Nonetheless, Lee did connect on five straight shots in the fourth quarter as the Knicks clawed their way back into the game.

Down just two points, Kristaps forced a turnover by knocking the ball off Mirotic’s leg and then, with the shot clock off, Lee drove baseline and kicked the ball to KP at the elbow who drained the game-tying shot:

The effort was for naught though, as Kris Dunn was fouled with 2.9 seconds left in the game as he drove to the rim and nailed both free-throws. Courtney Lee was not happy with the call as he had his hand on Dunn, but did not seem to push him much, if at all:

With just 2.9 seconds remaining, Kristaps got an open look from three for the win that hit front-, then back-iron before rattling out.

The Knicks bench

In the absence of the Knicks second-leading scorer in Tim Hardaway Jr., the bench mob picked up the slack. In Dougie McBuckets homecoming, he provided seven points off the bench in the first half and Ntilikina tacked on eight, including two triples (a third in the second half that was taken off the board due to a toe on the three-point arc).

Kyle O’Quinn completed two and-1’s and was a “demon on the defense,” according to Clyde Frazier, who dropped a few gems tonight. He also described Bobby Portis’s style as “bulldozer-finesse,” which is spot-on.

Beasley showed very little hustle in the first half, but finished the game with nine points on a controlled 3-of-5 from the field.

Ntilikina looked crisp, dropping 10 points and seven assists in 21 minutes off the bench. He was his usual kleptomaniac self, grabbing a steal that preceded a beautiful over the head pass to a KP slam. Though he did telegraphed a few passes leading to four turnovers for the rookie:

  • Porzingis wasn’t so aggressive this game in getting into the paint as his first free-throws came with just a minute to go in the fourth quarter (and he only went to the line because the Knicks were in the bonus).

  • The Knicks had six turnovers in the final frame. They need to cut down on the mental mistakes late in games.

  • I like Ntilikina and KOQ developing some chemistry in the pick-and-roll:

  • The Knicks really missed Hardaway tonight as they scored just six points in transition all night.

  • Robin Lopez hit two of his patented hook shots in the first quarter and it almost made me miss him for a second… until I realized how much better Kanter is.

Next up, the Knicks return home tomorrow night to take on the Hawks, who sport the second-worst record in the league behind only… the Bulls. Horny’s got to inspire his guys to get off to a better start than they did in this one.