On the 20-year anniversary of Michael Jordan's 'Double Nickel' game against the New York Knicks, the Knicks kindly honored His Airness by failing to score 55 points as an entire team after three quarters of play tonight. Eventually, the Knicks broke 55, but they wound up losing 111-80. Simply put, the Knicks did not challenge the Bulls at all. It was a D-League team versus a playoff team. A walk in the park. No contest, whatsoever.
The domination started pretty early with Chicago jumping out to a 17-9 first quarter lead. Joakim Noah, in particular, looked really fresh and springy. Even though we're in the dog days of March, noting how Noah looks has become a season-long exercise. The Bulls were off since Wednesday, so with all that time off, it should come as no surprise Noah looked as bouncy tonight as he has all season. Noah's frontcourt running mate, Pau Gasol, got off to yet another hot start as well, adding 11 points and six rebounds.
Moving along to the second quarter, the Knicks didn't do anything to suggest they were interested in a competitive basketball game. Nikola Mirotic showed former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani what a real European big man is supposed to look like. In a great sign, as he's struggled lately from deep, Mirotic drilled three trey bombs for the quarter -- including one from about 28-feet directly over Bargnani. Along with Mirotic playing well, Jimmy Butler was making a bunch of plays all over the floor.
By halftime, the talent disparity was clear as day. The Knicks just aren't fielding an NBA-level roster talent-wise. Honestly, when you're watching the Knicks, it's hard to compliment them without it sounding like a reach. Their shot selection is awful. Their defense is abysmal. I wouldn't question their effort -- we're talking about professionals after all -- but man oh man, it sure isn't easy to watch them. All I've got to say is that I'm extremely glad we dodged the bullet that is Carmelo Anthony.
For the game, Gasol finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Butler had 18 points and five steals. And Mirotic led all scorers with 24 points. Meanwhile, for the Knicks, Bargnani scored 14 and Langston Galloway scored 12.
One thing that did suck, though, was that Doug McDermott was out tonight with back soreness. McDermott won't get much run the rest of the way as Tom Thibodeau is gearing up the rotation for the postseason, so tonight would've been one of those rare opportunities for Doug to get some work in before the season is over. Although, I suppose watching Cam Bairstow get some minutes was a nice consolation because I'm pretty sure he could start for New York.
All in all, the best part about the game was that Gasol, Noah, Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks didn't play the fourth quarter. This basically never happens, so it's kind of a big deal. I guess we need a 30-point buffer zone before Thibs can feel safe with a lead. Yet although the result of the game wasn't in doubt, you better believe Thibs wouldn't take a seat on the sideline and relax. Never that.
So yeah, overall, the Bulls beating a bum team with ease was a good thing to see. Hasn't happened a whole hell of a lot this season. Chicago's now off till Wednesday where they'll take on the Milwaukee Bucks at United Center North for a potential first round playoff match-up preview. With less than ten games until the playoffs start, it's time to start keeping a close eye on the standings out East. As of now, the Bulls still can take the two seed and pass Cleveland. But also, playing Milwaukee in the first round might be best. So we'll see how it all shakes out.