With the Knicks rolling into the United Center on a 13-game winning streak and looking unstoppable early on, it looked like it was going to be a rough night for the Bulls. But much like they have all year, the undermanned Bulls pulled yet another improbable win out of their ass, beating the Knicks 118-111 in overtime and sweeping the season series 4-0.
Nate Robinson went full Nate Robinson, scoring eight of his season-high 35 points in the overtime period, out-dueling both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith in a wild and crazy affair. Nate went 10-of-18 overall, 5-of-11 from three and 10-of-10 from the line, while also mocking the Knicks time and time again with numerous "Discount Double Check" celebrations. Nate naturally did his best to throw the game away at the end of regulation, but he certainly more than made up for it with all the good that he did.
The Bulls appeared dead in the water midway through the third quarter after yet another slow start to a half, but things began to turn when Jimmy Butler came up with two straight steals and buckets. It got the crowd back into it, and the Bulls rode that wave into the fourth quarter after Nate buried a three to turn what had been a 15-point deficit to two.
As the Knicks' hot shooting finally turned ice cold, Nate went berserk early in the fourth quarter, burying three threes and helping push the Bulls to a nine-point lead. Anthony and Smith got the Knicks back into the game, and it was Melo who tied the game up on two free throws with 14 seconds left. After a tough miss by Luol Deng, Melo got a great look at a game-winner, but it clanked away, much like most of his jumpers on the night.
Anthony finished with a monster line of 36 points and 19 rebounds, but he shot just 13-of-34 from the field and didn't hit a single three-pointer. Much credit goes to Deng and Butler for making Melo work, as both Bulls wings were really physical with the Knicks' star. Anthony had some success on the low block, and he did get to the line 10 times, but he was noticeably frustrated with the Bulls' physicality (picked up another T). It's also worth noting that Butler ended up being the primary guy to guard Melo while Deng was moved onto Smith in the late stages. Smith was hot early, but he struggled as the game went on and struggled with Lu's length in the overtime period. Smith finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds, but he shot just 11-of-27.
Much like Tuesday against the Raptors and last Thursday against the Nets, the Bulls were on the verge of getting blown out of the gym within the first few minutes. The Knicks made their first six shots en route to a 16-4 lead, and that ballooned to 23-6 midway through the first quarter. New York was getting any look they wanted with their small lineup, especially from beyond the three-point line. Anthony started on fire, while every other single member of the Knicks' starting lineup hit three-pointers.
The Bulls matched the Knicks' small lineup out of the gates and pretty much most of the night, which created some pretty funky matchups. Down low, Carlos Boozer should have been able to have a field day considering Anthony and Chris Copeland played the 5 for the majority of the game, but it was not to be. Boozer really struggled with the Knicks' double teams, throwing up plenty of bricks and being sloppy with the ball. Boozer wound up turning in another double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot 3-of-11 and turned it over five times.
Things started to get on track for the Bulls once Butler hit his first shot of the game, which of course was a three-pointer. It was a sign of things to come for Jimmy, who was phenomenal once again after his 28-point performance against the Raptors. Nate's heroics ended up overshadowing Butler as Jimmy was kind of quiet late in the game, but he finished with a line of 22 points, 14 rebounds (seven offensive), three steals, three blocks and two assists. He shot an efficient 9-of-15 overall and 2-of-3 from deep and at times was the only good thing the Bulls had going. As noted earlier, his consecutive steals and buckets in the third quarter helped turn the tide of the game, and his physical defense on Melo was huge.
Also turning in a solid performance, shockingly, was Richard Hamilton. Hamilton looked rather spry at times, scoring 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting. And perhaps more impressive was the fact that he dished out eight assists. He still took several idiotic shots and was generally terrible on defense, but I'll take anything we can get from Rip at this point. And he delivered tonight.
This win is just another testament to the Bulls' consistent effort in these big games. All the individual performances were great, but what was just as important was the defense after the Knicks started each half so well. The Bulls held the Knicks to 40.4 percent shooting and 10-of-30 from three, which is superb considering how hot the Knicks were early. The Bulls have done an excellent job defensively all season against the Knicks, and it certainly would be fun to see if this success could continue in the postseason. But unfortunately, it's looking unlikely that that matchup will happen.
The Bulls have to get right back at it tomorrow night against the Raptors, and after all the energy and emotion poured into tonight's victory, a dud wouldn't shock me one bit. Butler and Kirk Hinrich both played 50 minutes (surprised Kirk isn't dead), while Boozer played 47. But we'll worry about that tomorrow. Let's enjoy this season sweep.
Oh, Joey Crawford is piece of crap. That is all.